Skip to Content

Wisconsin’s Open Container Law Explained

Car passengers with beer

Open container laws are designed to encourage safe driving. The idea is that if there’s an open container of alcohol in the vehicle (meaning a container with a broken seal), there’s reasonable suspicion that the driver has been drinking and driving. However, there are some intricacies and common misconceptions regarding Wisconsin’s open container laws that bear explaining.

Can Passengers Have Drinks?

It doesn’t matter if who has an open container. It doesn’t even matter if the driver knows there’s an open container in the vehicle. Imagine you’re driving to a party with your friends and someone is sipping from a flask in the back seat. That’s considered an open container violation.

If the police pull you over, both the drinking passenger and the driver may be held responsible for the open container.

What’s the Penalty?

In Wisconsin, an open container is a traffic violation. It typically carries a $100 fine, but penalties are doubled or even quadrupled if the driver is underage.

Additionally, an open container violation rarely results in an arrest, jail time, or driver’s license points unless the responding officer has reason to suspect an OWI or a degree of unsafe intoxication.

Where Should You Put It?

Any bottle of alcohol with an opened seal is considered an open container, even if the container is completely empty and dried out. The best place to put an opened container is in the trunk.

If the driver can reach the container from their seat, it would be considered an open container violation. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the glovebox or a backpack behind the passenger’s seat. To avoid open container law, it must be reasonably inaccessible to the driver’s reach.

If you were issued an open container citation, we can help. If you’d like an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney from Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (414) 882-8382.