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Open Container Laws in Maryland

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Pat Roache
· 4 min read
Drivers and passengers alike could face $25 in fines and fees for possessing an open or unsealed container of alcohol in a motor vehicle on the
Maryland
highways—even if no one is actually drinking from it.
The laws and penalties concerning open containers vary from state to state, so it’s important to get familiar with your individual state’s laws before getting in your car with a bottle or can.
Ready to learn all there is to know about open container laws in Maryland? Keep reading this quick guide to learn the definitions, exceptions, and penalties of the open container laws in the Old Line State.
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What is the open container law in Maryland?

Passed in 2005, Sections 10-123 to 127 of Maryland Criminal Law concerns the “Possession of Open Container in the Passenger Area of a Motor Vehicle.” The law applies to the driver and passengers in a motor vehicle on a highway and prohibits:
  • Consuming an alcoholic beverage 
  • Possessing an open container of any amount of alcohol
Basically, if you plan on transporting any kind of alcohol, it should be sealed in its original packaging to properly abide by the law. Even if the driver or passenger are not drinking, an open container of alcohol can land you in trouble with the law. However, the driver may not necessarily be subject to prosecution if the law is violated solely by a passenger. 

What counts as an open container?

The law specifically defines an open container as any bottle, can, or other receptacle carrying alcohol that:
  • Is open
  • Has a broken seal
  • Has had some content partially removed
For example, a full bottle of wine with the original metal capsule still secured around the cork is not an open container. It is still closed with an intact seal and all of its contents still inside. However, a bottle of wine with a twist cap that has broken off from the tamper ring—whether or not it's full—would technically count as an open container under Maryland criminal law.

Exceptions to Maryland’s open container law

While a driver should never be consuming or in possession of an open container, the law does make some exceptions for passengers in certain vehicles. You are exempt from the law if you are a passenger in one of the following vehicles while being used for their intended operation:
  • A bus
  • A taxi
  • A limousine
You are also exempt from the law if you are a passenger in the living quarters of:
  • A motor home 
  • A motor coach
  • A recreational vehicle
Key Takeaway Maryland criminal law prohibits consumption and possession of any open, unsealed, or partially emptied container of alcohol in a motor vehicle on a highway.

Penalties for violating Maryland’s open container law

If an officer has probable cause to believe that you’ve violated Maryland’s open container laws, you’ll be charged with a civil offense and given a
citation
. This offense does not constitute a criminal conviction or impose any related civil disabilities, but you will have to pay up to $25 in fines and court fees.
While the base charges for this offense may seem pretty tame, they are considerably escalated if you are convicted of violating an open container law while driving under the influence. Driver’s convicted with their first offense of a
DUI in Maryland
can face up to $1000 in fines, a year in jail, twelve violation points on their driving record, and license revocation for up to six months.
Driver’s facing their first conviction of a DWI—driving while impaired by alcohol—only face up to $500 in fines, two months in jail, eight points on their driving record, and
license suspension
for up to six months. Both offenses carry even more serious charges for repeat offenses and refusing to submit to a BAC test can add up to two years in license suspension.

How to save money on car insurance in Maryland

Following the rules of the road—like Maryland’s open container laws— is the best way to keep your car insurance rates steady.
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FAQs

A citation is given to whoever violated Maryland’s open container law—passenger or driver. The driver is not automatically subject to a ticket if they did not perform the violation.
Refusing to take a breathalyzer test in Maryland can result in a 270 day license suspension for a first offense, or a two year suspension for a second offense.
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