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Open Container Laws in Wheeling
An experienced Wheeling WV DUI lawyer possesses the knowledge to navigate the complex landscape of West Virginia’s Open Container laws. These laws, designed to safeguard the public from intoxicated individuals, form an integral part of West Virginia’s comprehensive DUI legislation. They place restrictions on the possession of open bottles or cans of alcohol, both while driving and in public spaces.
What the Law Says
West Virginia law prohibits both drivers and passengers in motor vehicles from consuming alcohol, including beer and other intoxicating beverages. Open containers are strictly prohibited within the vehicle, regardless of whether it is in motion on a street or stationary on a highway, street, public property, or private property open to the general public for parking or passage.
Furthermore, carrying an open container of alcohol, such as a cup, bottle, or can, in a public place is illegal, with the exception of specific zones designated by permit.
Exceptions to the Open Container Law
There are two instances in which an open container of alcohol may be allowed in vehicles. The first is when traveling in a chauffeured limousine, subject to the following conditions:
- Only passengers, excluding the driver, are permitted to consume alcohol.
- If seated in the front, where the driver is, the passenger must refrain from drinking.
- The passenger and their guests must have a prearranged contractual agreement with the limousine owner, including the payment of fees.
The second exception pertains to opened bottles of wine under specific circumstances:
- The wine must be purchased from a store or other licensed establishment.
- It must be stored in the trunk or an area within the vehicle where neither the driver nor passengers typically sit, ensuring the driver cannot access it. If the vehicle lacks a trunk, the wine should be securely stored behind the last upright seat.
- The bottle must be resealed in a manner that clearly indicates any opening or tampering.
Exceptions for open containers in a public place are listed below:
- Consumption of beer and liquor specifically at a convention facility
- Consumption of alcohol that has been purchased and consumed at a place with a valid permit for selling it, either permanently or temporarily
- Wine and liquor tastings
- Bringing alcohol to a music festival, provided the property owner has a permit and allows it
- Bringing alcohol to an orchestra performance, with permission from the proprietor
- Bringing alcohol to a racetrack or other motorsports facility, as long as it is permitted by the owner
- Purchasing alcohol from a vendor in an outdoor refreshment area, while remaining within its boundaries (vendor must have the appropriate permit)
- Riding a commercial quadricycle on a road (excluding the front seat), with alcohol amounts within designated limits, and not on streets with other traffic present.
Open Container Penalties
While there are exceptions, carrying an open container of alcohol in a public place in West Virginia is generally prohibited. Additionally, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle will result in an enhanced sentence for DUI charges.
Open container violation outside a vehicle is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $150. Open container violation inside a vehicle is considered a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $250.
At Mountaineer Criminal Law Group, we specialize in defending DUI-related charges, including open container violations. Contact us at (304) 381-3656 or schedule a free consultation online for expert guidance and support.
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