CO DUI: What is an Open Container?

It’s no secret that alcohol and motor vehicles don’t mix – especially in the eyes of the law. Colorado has some very strict statutes regarding drinking and driving, including driving with an open container in the vehicle.

In Colorado, a DUI charge sometimes isn’t as simple as driving under the influence. It can also include open containers in the vehicle at the time you were stopped by police. That’s why it’s vital to understand Colorado’s laws regarding open containers.

Open Container Laws in Colorado

If you want to understand open container laws in the state, you first have to understand the context of the laws.

There are three categories of open container laws in Colorado. They are:

Category 1

This is the category that applies to the consumption of marijuana or alcohol from within the vehicle.

Category 2

This category applies to bottles or containers that are partially consumed or have been taken from restaurants.

Category 3

This category describes being outdoors in designated areas where it is legal to consume alcohol.

How Is Open Container Defined?

An open container is a bit of a misnomer. That’s because the container doesn’t have to be completely open to violate the law. If you have a bottle of alcohol that has been previously opened, it cannot be in the main cabin of the car – it must be in the trunk. No one in the car can have a container that has even been partially or previously opened.

The law defines open containers as any can, bottle, or other receptacles that have any amount of alcohol contained within it. The seal on the bottle must be broken, and the contents must be partially removed.

The law goes even further to define the location of the passenger area where open containers cannot be located. The passenger area is the zone containing the seats of the passengers and driver – which includes the glove compartment. Not even passengers are allowed to knowingly drink alcohol or have an open container if the vehicle is in motion.

If open container laws are violated, then it is a Class A traffic infraction. That can result in fines of $50 but it also can count against your license.

Are There Any Exceptions?

There are a few exceptions to the Colorado open container law. These exceptions allow for passengers to legally consume alcohol in a vehicle while it is in motion. This can include vehicles such as:

  • Limousines
  • Motorhomes
  • Party buses
  • Shuttles

Basically, any type of vehicle that is hired and permits drinking is an exception to the law.

There are also some exceptions made for cars with a hatchback, Jeeps, and vans that don’t have a traditional trunk. Open containers can be stored in the cargo areas of these vehicles, and it won’t count against you.

DUI Defense Lawyer Colorado Springs

It’s important to realize that if you are found with an open container, that may not be the only charge you can face. You might also be charged with a DUI if the officer on the scene has reason to believe you were under the influence at the time they stopped you – and it doesn’t matter if you were parked or if the vehicle was in motion.

It’s vital to understand the charges against you and to know your rights in legal situations, which is why you need an attorney on your side.


About the Author:

Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.