What Are Indiana’s Open Container Laws?

Mar 30

Indiana’s open container law generally makes it illegal to possess an open container of alcohol or to consume alcohol in a motor vehicle. These laws protect others on the road from drunk driving accidents, but these crashes still occur. At Blackburn Romey, we have lawyers who can answer any questions you may have about open container laws, car accidents, and more. 

What Is the Open Container Law in Indiana?

Consumption and Possession of Open Containers of Alcohol

It is unlawful for a person in Indiana to be found in a motor vehicle with possession of an alcohol container that is open, has its seal broken, or has some of its content consumed. The vehicle must be in operation or located on the “right-of-way” of a public highway.

It’s also unlawful in Indiana for the driver of a motor vehicle to drink an alcoholic beverage while driving the vehicle on a public highway.

Exceptions To Open Container Law

Passengers can legally possess an open container of alcohol in the:

  • Passenger section of a motor vehicle that’s primarily used for the transportation of passengers, such as a limousine or taxi, and
  • Living area of a “house coach or house trailer.”

However, the driver of a motor vehicle like that is not allowed to possess an open container of alcohol.

Areas within a vehicle. An open container of alcohol can lawfully be placed in a locked, fixed compartment such as a center console or trunk. If the motor vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the open container of alcohol can be placed in an area not usually occupied by passengers.

Restaurant Wine Exception. The transportation of a partially consumed bottle of wine can be lawful in some cases. For example, a restaurant licensed to sell wine can permit a customer who purchased a bottle of wine but only consumed a part of that bottle to take the partially consumed bottle home with them. However, for being in possession of this partially consumed bottle of wine to be legal, the restaurant must reseal the bottle and place it in a container that can readily show that the container has been opened or tampered with after the resealing.

Possible Penalties for Violation of Open Container Law

It is a Class C infraction to be found guilty of possession of an open container of alcohol while an automobile is in operation or on a public highway. The penalty for this offense is a maximum fine of $500. Because a conviction for this infraction is not considered a moving violation, no points are assessed to the violator’s driving record.

A driver of a motor vehicle who consumes an alcoholic beverage while a motor vehicle is being operated on a public highway commits a Class B infraction. The maximum fine is $1,000, and the conviction will add six points to the motorist’s driving record.

Individuals can also face civil liability if they hit another car or a pedestrian, and the police cite or arrest them for alcohol-related offenses. If you were the victim of an accident, and the police arrested another driver for having an open container, it can certainly help prove your case. 

Speak with an Indiana Car Accident Attorney

If you suffered injuries due to an intoxicated driver, you want Blackburn Romey on your side. Please contact our office today for a consultation about your rights regarding open containers and car accidents.

Tom Blackburn

Blackburn Romey founding partner Tom Blackburn graduated with honors receiving a degree from Indiana University at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Initiating his legal career in 1977, he has been active in practicing law and currently serves as a member of the Indiana State Bar Association on the Ethics and Advertising Committees, the American Bar Association, the American Association for Justice, as a board member at the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, and as an appointed member of the Executive Committee for the State of Indiana for the National Trial Lawyers Association.

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This page has been written, edited, and reviewed by a team of legal writers following our comprehensive editorial guidelines. This page was approved by Founding Partner, Tom Blackburn, who has more than 47 years of legal experience, including over 39 years specializing as a personal injury attorney.