Skip to Content Top

What You Might Not Know About North Carolina’s Open Container Laws


Open Container Law in North Carolina

You went out for a nice dinner with good company, and now it’s time to head home--but there’s still some wine left from the meal. It wasn’t cheap, and you’re not about to guzzle it down before getting behind the wheel. Naturally, you want to take the wine with you to enjoy at home.

Proceed with caution. There’s a legal way to transport the bottle of wine and a way that could end up getting you charged for driving with an open container. Do you know which one will keep you out of jail?

Contact us today for your initial consultation!

For those who don’t, we’ve created this blog post to answer 7 commonly asked questions about North Carolina’s open container laws.

1. What kinds of open containers are illegal to transport?

It is illegal in North Carolina to transport one or more open containers (bottles, cans, cups, glasses, etc.) with any of the following types of alcohol:

  • Beer or other malt beverages;

  • Wine (both fortified and unfortified);

  • Mixed beverages;

  • Spirits or hard alcohols.

2. What counts as “open” under North Carolina law?

If the container’s seal is broken, the container is considered “open.” Therefore, a bottle of liquor that doesn’t have the plastic wrap on the cap of the bottle is technically open.

3. Are open containers in limousines or taxis permissible?

The law makes some exceptions for the following vehicles:

  • Taxis;

  • Limousines;

  • Vehicles for hire;

  • Motor homes;

  • Living quarters in RVs.

Golf carts, ATVs, and motorcycles are not exempt.

4. What if my car is parked?

Whether parked or in motion, if there is an open container in the passenger area of your car, you can still be charged.

5. What if I was not drinking the alcohol while in my car?

Even if you were not drinking alcohol from the open container in your car, it still counts as breaking the law.

6. What if the open container isn’t mine but belongs to one of my passengers?

You, as the driver, will not be in violation of the law as long as you are not in possession of the open container and as long as you have not consumed alcohol from the container.

However, your passenger(s) with the open container can be charged with an infraction, a violation defined by North Carolina G.S. 20-138.7(a1). This infraction applies only to the person who possesses or consumes an alcoholic beverage in a non-permitted vehicle.

7. Where is it legal to store open containers in my car?

If you must transport an opened container of alcohol in your vehicle, make sure it is nowhere within the driver or passenger area (including the glove compartment). In other words, open alcohol must go in the trunk or your vehicle's trunk-like counterpart.

According to North Carolina law, these two areas are not considered part of the passenger area:

  • The area of the trunk

  • The area behind the last upright back seat of a station wagon, hatchback, or similar vehicle

Therefore, if your opened bottle of wine from dinner is stowed in one of these 2 areas, you are not breaking North Carolina open container laws.

If you or a loved one have been charged with driving while impaired, contact The Trevor J. Avery Law Firm Attorneys At Law for the best legal protection available.