Open Container Laws in Iowa

Under Iowa’s open container law, you can be fined $260 for having an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your car, even if you’re parked.
Written by John Pickhaver
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Iowa’s open container laws make it illegal to drive with a container of alcohol that has been unsealed in the passenger section of your car. Violators could face a $260 fine. It does not matter if you are parked or sober. 
It’s important to note that open container laws are different from state to state, so it’s critical to be familiar with the laws on the books where you live. 
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What is the open container law in Iowa?

According to Iowa state
, an open container in a motor vehicle is a misdemeanor. You can be issued a citation if you or your passengers are in possession of “an open or unsealed bottle, can, jar, or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage.”
Iowa state law defines “passenger area” as the section of your car designed to seat the driver and passengers while the vehicle is in operation. This includes the glove department. 
An open or unsealed alcoholic beverage may be transported in the trunk or behind the last upright seat of your car if you do not have a trunk.

What counts as an open container?

Iowa considers an open container as any receptacle that holds alcohol that has been opened or has broken seals.
You likely won’t need to worry about the fully-sealed bottle of cooking wine you picked up at Hy-Vee. However, if you have a half-empty bottle of whiskey on your passenger seat floor or a re-corked bottle of wine from your dinner party, you’ll be setting yourself up for trouble and a sizable fine. 

Exceptions to Iowa’s open container law

There are a few notable exceptions to the open container laws in Iowa. Passengers are permitted to have alcohol in an open container in these vehicles: 
  • Living area of a motor home
  • A party bus
  • Limousine
Key Takeaway If you have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle’s passenger area while on a public street or highway in Iowa, you could be fined up to $260. 

Penalties for violating Iowa’s open container law

If you’re caught violating Iowa’s open container law, you could be saddled with a fine of up to $260. In Iowa, this is considered a misdemeanor offense. 
Bear in mind, a citation for an open container violation will be much more severe if you are found to be intoxicated. If convicted of Operating Under the Influence (OWI), you could be imprisoned for 48 hours to one full year. You will also face fines ranging from $625 to $1250. 
Not to mention, rejecting a breathalyzer test in Iowa will result in an automatic license revocation for one year. 
OWI or not, an open container citation leaves you with a criminal record that will likely increase your insurance premium significantly. 

How to save money on car insurance in Iowa

Being aware of the details of Iowa’s open container laws will help to keep your insurance rates low. But if you’re still looking for a better deal, then turn to
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You and your passengers can receive citations for open container violations on Iowa roads.
If you deny a breathalyzer test in Iowa, your license will automatically be revoked for one year.
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