Many Virginians are surprised to learn that the Commonwealth does not currently prohibit passengers in a motor vehicle from having open alcohol containers. Several attempts from the Virginia General Assembly to codify a provision against open containers have failed. Possession of an open container by a driver, however, is prohibited. The statute that governs drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle is Va. Code § 18.2-323.1. “Drinking while operating a motor vehicle; possession of open container while operating a motor vehicle and presumption; penalty.
- It shall be unlawful for any person to consume an alcoholic beverage while driving a motor vehicle upon a public highway of this Commonwealth.
- A rebuttable presumption that the driver has consumed an alcoholic beverage in violation of this section shall be created if (i) an open container is located within the passenger area of the motor vehicle, (ii) the alcoholic beverage in the open container has been at least partially removed and (iii) the appearance, conduct, odor of alcohol, speech or other physical characteristic of the driver of the motor vehicle may be reasonably associated with the consumption of an alcoholic beverage.
- A violation of this section is punishable as a Class 4 misdemeanor.”
- If any person takes a drink of alcoholic beverages or offers a drink thereof to another, whether accepted or not, at or in any public place, he shall be guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.”