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Connecticut Open Container Laws

Connecticut has certain laws regarding open containers on public and private property as well as in motor vehicles. On this page, you can learn more about situations in which open containers are illegal, the laws related to public and private beaches, and potential penalties for violation of open container laws.

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When you are operating a motor vehicle in Connecticut, there are certain laws about having alcohol in the car. If you are an adult transporting unopened bottles of alcohol, this is generally acceptable. But, if you are stopped by the police and you have an open container of alcohol, this could cause a problem. Every state has laws about open containers of alcohol in the car. You can learn about Connecticut’s laws here.

Situations Where Open Containers Are Illegal

In certain situations, it is illegal for a driver to have open containers of alcohol in the car. These situations include when:

  • A person is operating a motor vehicle. 
  • They are in a parking lot with space for 10 or more vehicles. 
  • On school property.
  • On specific classes of roads. 

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It is also against the law for another person in the car who is not the driver to have an open container of alcohol.

Public and Privately Owned Beaches

Most of the beach front property in Connecticut is privately owned by people or companies and associations. When a property is privately owned, they can decide the restrictions regarding open containers on their beach property and inside any households on the shoreline. These entities have to follow the state and federal laws, but since open containers are not strictly prohibited, the private owners have some freedom in their decisions. 

Most of the beaches in Connecticut aren’t owned by the state; they are locally run which means they abide by local laws or state commands. 

A helpful tool for looking up laws or regulations that a particular beach might enforce is the internet or signs in the area. Some districts allow certain things such as alcohol in picnic areas but not on the sand. Or, they may have rules against glass containers, but allow cans. Others might prohibit any alcohol consumption at all. Websites usually detail the items that are prohibited or accepted for the public to adhere by and have fines if they are not followed.

If the beach you are on allows the consumption of alcohol, remember that drunken behavior or improper actions can lead to an arrest as well. Disruption of peace, disorderly conduct, assaults, and DUIs are still illegal actions that have consequences in Connecticut. So, you may not get in trouble in regards to the open container laws, but you might face another, related charge. It’s important to know the boundaries each association or homeowner has and not to cross the line by your actions.

Penalties

A driver who is over the age of 21 will be punished if they break Connecticut’s open container laws. They can get a fine of up to $500. They also could get a jail sentence of up to three months. A driver who is under the age of 21 who breaks this law gets additional punishments. They face a 60 day suspension of their license. This is the case if a police officer finds any alcohol in the vehicle. The alcohol does not have to be opened for this suspension to apply. This suspension will apply in all but a few circumstances. 

One situation where this doesn’t apply is when the underage driver is driving with a parent or guardian. Another situation is when the driver is over 18 and has a state liquor permit. Even if they do not have this permit, if they are performing services related to this permit, the officer should not charge them. If the child did not have knowledge of the alcohol being in the car, this can also be used as an exception to the law. Of course, it might be difficult to prove that you didn’t know that alcohol was in the car. 

Protecting Your Rights

If you are pulled over and you have an open container in your car, the officer might have reasonable suspicion that you have been drinking and driving. If this is the case, they might ask you to perform standardized field sobriety tests or other sobriety tests. It is a good idea to contact a lawyer if you are in this position. If possible, you want to avoid being charged with a DUI and being charged with violating the open container laws.

If you were charged with a DUI or a violation of open container laws, you might need help. Contacting a lawyer is a good way to get help. For more information on what you have been charged with and what to do next, contact my office. I can answer your questions during a free consultation.

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