Open Container Laws in Minnesota

Under Minnesota’s open container law, you can be fined $1,000 for having any opened container of alcohol in the passenger area of your car.
Written by Ethan Moser
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Even if you’re sober, you could face fines of up to $1,000 for having any open receptacles containing alcohol in your car under Minnesota’s open container law.
Each U.S. state has its own rules and regulations when it comes to open container laws, so it’s important to be aware of your state’s specific guidelines. 
Thankfully, the
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has taken care of all the research for you and crafted this handy guide to Minnesota’s open container laws. We’ll cover everything from the penalties for driving with an open container to Minnesota’s exceptions regarding open container laws, all to help you keep your
Minnesota insurance rates

What is the open container law in Minnesota?

Section 169A.35
of the Minnesota Statutes, updated in 2021, covers “Open Bottle Laws”. In accordance with this legislation, you can be found guilty of a misdemeanor if: 
  • You are in possession of any open or unsealed receptacle containing alcohol (eg., distilled spirits, 3.2% malt liquor), regardless of the amount 
  • The open container is located in the passenger area
  • You are on a road or public highway regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion.
  • You, as the driver, are consciously aware of the container
To put it plainly, the only legal way to travel with alcohol in your privately-owned vehicle is if the receptacle containing the alcoholic beverage is sealed and/or stored in the trunk. Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if the open container is yours or one of your passenger’s. 
Similarly, you could face misdemeanor charges even if you’re sober while driving with an open container. 

What counts as an open container?

You don’t have to have a cracked open can of beer in your cup holder to be violating open container laws. Minnesota state law defines an “open container” as any receptacle containing alcohol (distilled spirits, 3.2% malt liquor) that has been “opened, or the seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.” 
You’re in the clear if you’re heading to a housewarming party with a fully-sealed bottle of champagne, but once you’ve popped the cork, driving with that same bottle falls within the lines of Minnesota’s open container laws. 

Exceptions to Minnesota’s open container law

Minnesota lists a number of exceptions in regards to when open containers of alcohol can be allowed on vehicles. Passengers can possess an open container of alcohol while on the following vehicles: 
  • Buses
  • Commercial vehicles similar to bicycles with five or more passengers operating the pedals
  • Limousines
Key Takeaway Knowingly driving with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle could land you with up to $1,000 in fines under Minnesota state law.
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Penalties for violating Minnesota’s open container law

If you’re found guilty of driving with an open container of alcohol in Minnesota, the accompanying criminal penalty is a Class C misdemeanor charge. This charge comes alongside up to a $1,000 fine per open container.  
In the case that you’re inebriated at the time of the offense or refuse a breathalyzer test, however, these charges could intensify. Under Minnesota Statute
, refusing to take a breathalyzer test can result in
license revocation.
If convicted of violating
Minnesota's DWI laws
, your Class C misdemeanor will be upgraded to a Class B and could result in potential jail time, loss of license for at least 30 days and up to one year, and up to $20,000 in charges when you factor in court fees and increased insurance premiums. 
Even if you aren’t convicted of a DWI, an open container citation could result in a significant increase in your insurance premium. Being aware of your local open container laws can help you to avoid unexpected increases.

How to save money on car insurance in Minnesota

Smart, safe driving is one of the easiest ways to keep your insurance premiums low. Adhering to Minnesota state law is only one way to avoid overpaying for car insurance, however. Another great way to avoid paying more than you need to for great insurance is by signing up with
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Either the owner of the vehicle or the driver, if the owner is not present, can receive open container citations in Minnesota. Passengers are also eligible for open container tickets.
If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test in Minnesota, your license can be suspended.
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