Can Passengers Drink Alcohol in a Car in Tennessee?

Passengers can drink alcohol in a car in Tennessee, but drivers should know the details before hitting the road.
Written by Macy Fouse
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
In Tennessee, open container laws only apply to the driver. Passengers are legally allowed to possess or consume alcohol in the car. 
Every state has different laws when it comes to alcohol, open containers, and driving, so it’s crucial to know your state’s laws before doing anything risky. Being familiar with the open container law could save you from fines and an expensive
Tennessee car insurance cost
, the #1-rated
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comparison app, has compiled this simple guide to  Tennessee’s open container laws. We'll let you know how the law applies to passengers and drivers, as well as the penalty you'll receive for violating it in the Volunteer State.
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Can passengers drink alcohol in a car in Tennessee?

Yes. According to
Tennessee Code 55-10-416
, only drivers are prohibited from consuming or possessing an open container of alcohol. That means it’s technically legal for passengers in a moving vehicle to consume or possess an open alcoholic beverage. However, certain municipalities may have stricter rules. 
What counts as an open container? In Tennessee, an open container is any opened alcoholic beverage with 0.5% or more alcohol by volume. This includes if the seal has been broken or if any of the alcohol has been removed from the container. 
If there is no passenger in the car while open containers are present, the driver is likely to be charged with violating the open container law unless the alcohol is located in a closed glove compartment, trunk, or another non-passenger area of the vehicle. If you get pulled over and the police find your uncorked bottle of wine from dinner in an open passenger area, you’ll be paying a steep fine even if you’re completely sober.

Exceptions to open container laws in Tennessee

Most states include exceptions to their open container laws, and the same goes for Tennessee. We outlined a few cases above, but let’s look at the details. 
Since the driver is the only one who is prohibited from possessing an open container, any passenger in a moving vehicle is legally allowed to consume an open alcoholic drink. The “open container” designation also doesn’t apply if the open container is in a closed glove box, locked trunk, or other non-passenger section of the vehicle, even if the driver is alone in the car. 
In Tennessee, a vehicle is considered in operation if the engine is running, even if it’s parked in place. So if you’re the driver, be sure you don’t take any sips until you’re out of the car. 
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Penalties for an open container violation in Tennessee

Violating Tennessee’s open container law is considered a Class C misdemeanor, which will not
land you in jail
, but will give you a fine of up to $100. In most cases, you’ll be issued a citation for violating this law, but if you refuse the
or there are extenuating circumstances, you could be detained. 
Luckily, an open container infraction won’t lead to your
license being suspended
or revoked. However, an open container violation on your driving record will lead to a more serious penalty if you’re ever caught driving under the influence.
Key Takeaway If you’re driving with no passengers and an open container in Tennessee, you’ll be fined up to $100 and risk more severe consequences for any potential DUIs in the future.

How to save on car insurance in Tennessee

Violating Tennessee’s open container laws may not cost you much in fines, but you can probably expect your car insurance rates to rise. If you’re looking for ways to save on Tennessee car insurance—whether your record is spotty or spotless—
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