In North Carolina, it is illegal to have an open container of any alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. This applies regardless if the car is being driven on a public roadway or if it is parked. If you are charged with an open container violation, you could be convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor if it is your first offense, and a Class 2 misdemeanor if it is a repeat offense.
An open container is any alcoholic beverage that has a broken seal. If the seal is broken, no matter how slight, it is considered an open container in the eyes of the law in North Carolina.
The “Passenger area” of a motor vehicle is the area designed to seat the driver and any passengers, and any area within the reach of a seated driver or passenger. Places like the glove compartment or other containers in the center console of a vehicle would be considered the “Passenger area”. The trunk of a car or the area behind the last upright back seat of a station wagon or hatchback is not considered part of the “passenger area”.
There are a few exceptions to North Carolina’s restriction on open containers, including the passenger areas of vehicles-for-hire (such as buses or taxis), and the living quarters of motor homes and “house cars”.
But what about in an Uber or Lyft?
In North Carolina, it is not illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that is designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation. Historically, this has applied exclusively to vehicles like buses and taxi services. With the rise of Uber and Lyft ride-share services, it is unclear whether those rides fall under the exception for vehicles “used primarily for the transportation of persons for compensation.” With the law being unclear with how to classify ride-share services under the open container statute, if you possess an open container in the Uber or Lyft, you could face NC criminal charges.
Have you or someone you know been charged with an open container offense in Raleigh, North Carolina? Contact Granados Law Group, PLLC, Attorney Lindsey Granados can help! Lindsey is an experienced criminal defense attorney located in North Carolina. Lindsey has defended numerous clients and knows that a conviction can seriously impact your life. Let Lindsey answer any questions you may have about your open container charge. Call Lindsey at (919) 650-2851 for a free consultation today.