What Is Missouri’s Open Container Law?
Ryan Bradley | July 19, 2023 | Missouri Law
Almost every state in the country has open container laws that prevent people from driving with an open container of alcohol in the car and from drinking alcohol in a public place. However, Missouri is one of the six states that doesn’t restrict those activities.
However, this does not mean that Missouri has no laws regulating open alcohol containers. The laws are just much more constrained than those of most other states and harder to break.
State Level Laws
Missouri does not have a statewide open container law. Instead, the practice is largely acceptable at the state level.
Similarly, there are no state laws prohibiting public drinking. You can walk around carrying or drinking an open container of alcohol as long as you are of legal age. That last part is important because minors carrying alcohol can be arrested on misdemeanor charges.
Finally, even though you can carry open containers in public, state law prohibits you from taking open drinks that you purchased at a bar, restaurant, or similar location into public areas.
While there are few state-level restrictions on open containers, roughly 30 municipalities in the state have local restrictions on open alcohol containers in vehicles. If you have an open container in any of these locations, you can be arrested, fined, and possibly even thrown in jail.
Because of this patchwork of local laws, it is difficult to know whether you can legally drive in any specific area of Missouri with open alcohol containers in your car. This makes it dangerous to drive with open alcohol unless you are aware of all local laws and are very careful not to cross jurisdictional lines.
There are also several jurisdictions where public drinking is prohibited. Unlike open container laws for vehicles, these are much easier to obey because you aren’t likely to cross a jurisdictional line.
One notable location where you can’t carry open alcohol containers is Kansas City. However, state law creates an exception to this regulation that allows people to drink from open plastic containers in the Power & Light District.
Open Container Laws and Drunk Driving
Regardless of how lax Missouri open container laws are, there is nothing in the law that allows drinking and driving. Drivers aren’t allowed to hold or drink alcoholic beverages while driving. Nor are they allowed to drink before driving a vehicle.
Drunk driving is against the law in Missouri, and that law is heavily enforced. When a drunk driver gets into a DUI car accident, the state usually throws the book at them, stripping them of their license and likely throwing them in jail.
Avoid Fines and Jail Time
When the laws can change from one milepost to another, it isn’t a good idea to drive with open alcohol in your car. If you want to ensure you don’t get fined or arrested, use caution.
The best way to avoid the patchwork of laws in the state is to never carry open containers in a car and avoid drinking in public. Instead, wait until you get to where you are going to crack open a beer. It is best to only drink on private property.
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