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Open alcohol containers in vehicles and North Dakota law

On Behalf of | Nov 4, 2020 | Criminal Defense

In North Dakota, the general rule for open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles is: don’t do it. However, when you look more closely at the law, the rule is not quite that simple. There are exceptions that could apply to your case, if you are ever charged with having an open container in your vehicle.

Recreational vehicles

People in the living quarters of a mobile home or camper are allowed to drink alcohol, as long as the vehicle is not in motion.

Non-passenger or driver parts of the vehicle

North Dakota’s open container law only applies to the areas where people sit. Open containers in the trunk or other area not normally occupied by people generally will not lead to a ticket.

Low-alcohol beverages

The law applies to beverages containing at least .5 percent alcohol by volume. Certain non-alcoholic beers and similar beverages that have trace amounts of alcohol could be exceptions.

Certain passenger vehicles

The law allows drinking alcohol and holding an open container for passengers of certain vehicles, including limousines, buses and taxi cabs.

North Dakota has one of the lightest open container laws, with only a $50 fine possible. You will not be sent to jail if you are convicted or plead guilty. But the conviction will go on your driving record. If you have previous infractions, an open container ticket could cost you your driver’s license.

That’s why you should not ignore an open container ticket. It is not a good idea to automatically pay the fine either, especially if you are sure that the officer made a mistake or that you did not break the law. Consulting a defense attorney could help you keep your driving privileges in this situation.


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