Open Container Laws and the Strange Case of Mississippi

Posted by James Ferguson | Mar 01, 2018 | 0 Comments

Open Container Laws Across the Country

Open container laws are state laws that prohibit the presence of an open container of alcohol in an individual's car without regard to whether the individual is consuming it. In 1998, the federal government passed an act incentivizing states to pass open alcohol container prohibitions. Each state that passed a compliant open container prohibition was rewarded with funding for the development of its roadways. About 39 states, including the District of Columbia, have compliant laws prohibiting the presence of open alcohol containers in cars. A few remaining states (Wyoming, Louisiana, Tennessee and Alaska) have open container prohibitions that are not compliant with the federal program. For example, the federal program requires that the state law contain a clause that also prohibits passengers from consuming alcoholic beverages in a car. In addition, the state law must contain a clause that prohibits the act on public highways and on the “shoulders” of roadways. Although some rogue states have not subscribed to the federal program, they have consistent local laws prohibiting open containers (Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Virginia, and West Virginia). Mississippi, however, is unlike any other state when it comes to open container laws.

Mississippi Has Not Enacted a Statewide Open Container Prohibition

Unlike all other states in America, Mississippi is the only state without an affirmative prohibition against possessing open alcohol containers in a vehicle. It is important to note that no matter the scenario, if you are caught intoxicated while operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08%, you are subject to a DUI charge. In addition, it does not mean the act of having an open alcohol container or consuming alcohol while driving is legal in the entire state of Mississippi. It is a bit more complex than that. Although Mississippi as a state does not have an affirmative prohibition against open containers, certain counties and cities within the state do prohibit it. This set-up makes for a confusing patchwork of laws when it comes to the open container scenario. An act that is legal in one city can quickly turn illegal by simply making a right turn into the next town.

Avoiding a DUI in an Open Container Free State

The best advice for this situation is likely simple. Do not drive with open alcohol containers and do not consume alcohol while driving. No matter the law in your town or city, it a best practice to avoid the appearance of a DUI. Also, the more you ride around with open containers in your car, the more likely you are to become intoxicated and the more you put yourself and others at risk. As a best practice, do not leave any open alcohol containers in your car and do not allow passengers to have them, either. No matter the law in Mississippi, adhering to this general rule will save you a whole lot of trouble.

Need Legal Assistance with a DUI Case?

Mississippi attorney James Robert Ferguson is an experienced DUI attorney who is ready to defend you. He understands the complexities of Mississippi DUI laws and he will guide you through the process in a diligent manner. Contact us for a consultation today.

See related blog posts:
Are Sobriety Check Points Legal in Mississippi?
Can Self Driving Cars End Drunk Driving?

About the Author

James Ferguson

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. During college, I studied at East Tennessee State University, where I received a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice, which I then followed up with a Master's in Criminology from the University of Memphis. Before beginning my legal career, I worked as a Project Coordinator at the University of Memphis, where I assisted in training law enforcement officers in the Memphis Model of Crisis Intervention Training. The purpose of the project was to provide officers with the tools to deal with citizens in a state of mental crisis. I then went on to study law at the Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson. During law school, I clerked with Victor W. Carmody, Jr., the lawyer who wrote the book on DUI law in Mississippi. I am currently licensed to practice law in both Tennessee and Mississippi, and spend a majority of my time traveling the highways and biways of Mississippi defending those who have been charged with a DUI.


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