Utah’s Open Container Law

Clayton Simms, Criminal Defense Attorney, on the topic of  Alcohol in Utah, Dealing with Police, Utah Law
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Most states (including Utah) prohibit people from possessing or drinking alcohol from an open container in certain areas.  One of those areas is  a vehicle traveling on a road.  Utah’s Open Container law prohibits people from drinking, keeping, or transporting any alcoholic beverage with a broken seal in the passenger compartment.

A person may not keep, carry, possess, transport, or allow another to keep, carry, possess, or transport in the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle, when the vehicle is on any highway, any container which contains any alcoholic beverage if the container has been opened, its seal broken, or the contents of the container partially consumed.  U.C.A. § 41-6a-526(3).

This doesn’t mean that after opening an expensive bottle of wine, a person cannot bring it to a friend’s house for dinner.  Utah’s Open Container law only prohibits people from putting in the passenger compartment, which is defined as “the area of the vehicle normally occupied by the operator and passengers” and “areas accessible to the operator and passengers while traveling, including a utility or glove compartment.”  U.C.A. § 41-6a-526(1)(d)(i-ii).  The passenger compartment does not include “a separate front or rear trunk compartment or other area of the vehicle not accessible to the operator or passengers while inside the vehicle.”  U.C.A. § 41-6a-526(1)(d)(iii).

Therefore, you should always put open bottles of alcohol in the trunk of your car.  Not only will this protect from breaking Utah’s Open Container law, but it will also protect you from an unauthorized police search of your vehicle.  To search the trunk of a car, police need a search warrant.

If you have been charged with violating Utah’s Open Container law, contact a top Utah criminal attorney who can help defend you against this charge.

Related posts:

  1. Utah Criminal Law Question: Can I drink alcohol as a passenger in Utah?
  2. U.S. Supreme Court: Arizona v. Gant

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3 Comments - Join the Conversation!

  1. Addison Larreau says:

    Yeah I agee

  2. [...] on carrying opened bottles of liquor in your car: Put the opened bottles of liquor in your trunk.  We’ve written on Utah Open Container Laws before. Truly, the only thing you need to do to avoid an open container ticket is to put the liquor in [...]

  3. James says:

    So what is the distinction in this statute between someone moving to Utah with alcohol they purchased in, let’s say, Wyoming, from someone who hails from Wyoming driving home from a trip to Reno with several opened bottles of liquor in a box in a locked, inaccessible trunk and is only “passing through”? It seems like the law treats everyone as if they are coming “to” Utah but doesn’t make clear whether there is any way for people to show they are “traveling through” to another location. Is there any distinction here?

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