Tennessee Open Container Law
Tennessee’s open container law, TCA § 55-10-416, is much different from Tennessee’s DUI laws or DWI statutes, though they all aim to prevent the same end result. Tennessee’s open container statute states that it is against the law for a driver to consume any alcoholic beverage, or to possess an open container of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle. This is markedly different from DUI and DWI in that it does not require the driver to actually be under the influence, but only to be in possession of or consuming an alcoholic beverage.
Under TCA § 55-10-416, as a Tennessee traffic violation, an open container is any container that has an alcoholic beverage inside, the contents of which are immediately capable of being consumed or the seal of which has been broken. Also, a driver is deemed in possession of the container when it is not in the possession of a passenger and is not located in a closed compartment or other nonpassenger area of the vehicle. This statute comes into play any time the engine of the motor vehicle is on, despite whether the vehicle is actually moving.
An open container violation in Tennessee is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine only, and not imprisonment. Additionally, a police officer is to only issue a citation for a violation of the statute, unless the offender refuses to sign or accept the citation, at which point the officer may take the driver into custody.
TCA § 55-10-416 specifically states that local municipalities may criminalize the possession of an open alcohol container by a passenger; however, the default rule in Tennessee is that only the driver of the motor vehicle may be cited for possessing an open container. This makes Tennessee one of only eleven states to not criminalize the possession of an open alcohol container by the passenger of a motor vehicle.
If you are facing charges for violating Tennessee's open container law or if you are facing DUI charges, it may be in your best interest to contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer in Pigeon Forge. At Baker Associates, we will aggressively defend your rights and ensure that you understand the complexities of your case. Call us today for a comprehensive evaluation.