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Can you get a DUI for an open container?

On Behalf of | Jul 25, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

In South Dakota, you are prohibited from transporting any open alcoholic beverages within your vehicle. You can transport alcohol in closed containers, but to be safe, placing them in your trunk is a good idea.

Having an open container in your vehicle is a class 2 misdemeanor in South Dakota, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to a DUI. You could, however, be accused of a DUI if an open container is in your vehicle and the police suspect that you have been drinking.

Can your passenger drink while you drive in South Dakota?

No. Your passenger is not allowed to drink even if they are not the one driving. In fact, the law specifically states that the open container has to be so far away from you that no one in your vehicle has access to it.

Violating this law is a misdemeanor with up to $100 in fines and a possible jail sentence of up to 30 days.

Getting a DUI with an open container offense

Sometimes, an open container will signify that someone in your vehicle may have been drinking. If the officer sees an open container, they might ask you to take field sobriety tests or a Breathalyzer test. They could use these, along with the evidence of an open container in your vehicle, to show that you were driving while impaired.

You won’t necessarily get a DUI just because you had an open container in your vehicle, but it is possible that your likelihood of getting a DUI will be increased because of the open container being present.

What if the container opened accidentally?

What about spills? What about if your container broke and leaked out alcohol? These are good questions. Since the law is written to state that the alcohol needs to be far enough away that you and the other passengers can’t reach it or that the original seal needs to be in place, it could be difficult to prove that you didn’t open that container yourself. However, obvious signs of breakage and having the alcohol in the back seat or trunk could be enough to start defending yourself against the charges.