Open Container Laws in Colorado

Driving with an open container in the passenger area of a car in Colorado can result in a $50 fine.
Written by Olivia Rose
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
It is illegal in
Colorado
to drive with an open container of alcohol in an area accessible to the driver or passengers. Keep open containers of alcohol in the trunk of your car to avoid a fine. 
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What is the open container law in Colorado?

In Colorado, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the vehicle's passenger area at any time. This means any open container of alcohol in any area of the vehicle designated for the driver or passengers—and it includes any areas readily accessible to drivers or passengers. This includes areas like your car’s glove compartment. 

What counts as an open container?

An “open container” refers to any can, bottle, or other container holding alcohol that has a broken seal or its contents partially removed. While this could be something more obvious like an open beer in the front seat cup holder, a bottle of Jack with a broken seal would also put you at risk of violating Colorado law. 

Exceptions to Colorado’s open container law

The best way to avoid being guilty under Colorado’s open container law is to keep your open container of alcohol in the trunk of your car. Trunks are permitted areas for open containers in Colorado since they are generally inaccessible to drivers and passengers while the car is moving. 
If your car doesn’t have a trunk, Colorado allows you to keep an open container of alcohol behind the last upright seat in your vehicle. 
What’s more, if you are a passenger in a vehicle like a limo or a party bus—namely, cars that transport people primarily for compensation—you’re good to go drinking in the back seat. 
Key Takeaway An open container of alcohol in any area of the car readily accessible to the driver and passengers is illegal in Colorado, except in some rare cases. 

Penalties for violating Colorado’s open container law

The main penalty for violating Colorado’s open container law is a fine of up to $50—but that’s for only being found with possession of an open container in your car. 
The penalties for violating
Colorado's DUI laws
are more severe. Most violations of this sort result in a license suspension. Here’s a look at the specifics:
Violation
License suspension
Points on record
Blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%+ (1st violation)
9 months
BAC of 0.08%+ (2nd violation)
12 months
BAC of 0.08%+ (3rd or subsequent violation)
24 months
Driving with ability impaired (DWAI)
none
8 points
DUI (first violation)
9 months
12 points
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These penalties are no fun in and of themselves. But another indirect penalty of a driving infraction like a DUI is that it will raise your insurance rates. Car insurance providers charge higher rates for drivers with bad records—and that includes drivers with a history of a DUI or failed breathalyzer test. 
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Drivers with an open container in the driver or passenger areas will be ticketed for violating Colorado’s open container law.
Denying a breathalyzer in Colorado is illegal and can result in a 1-year license suspension for your first offense.
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