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What does North Carolina's open container law entail?

In North Carolina, the transportation of an open container of alcohol is governed by law. However, a violation of this law does depend on the type of vehicle it is in, where in the vehicle it is located and the type of alcohol.

For commercial vehicles, such as semi-trucks, dump trucks or garage trucks, no alcohol may be in the vehicle. It doesn't matter if the beverage is open or closed -- it is not allowed. This does not just mean when the commercial vehicle is in motion on the highway but also if the vehicle is parked.

In a passenger vehicle, an open container of alcohol violation can occur if the alcohol is within reach of a driver or passenger who is sitting down. This includes the car's glove box. If the vehicle is a hatchback or station wagon, the area in the far back of the vehicle behind the last seat that is upright is not considered to be within reach of the driver.

However, if the driver has not had an alcoholic drink and is driving a bus, taxi or similar vehicle for hire, then it is not illegal for there to be an open container of unfortified wine, such as champagne or table wine, malt beverage, such as beer or hard lemonade, in the passenger area of the vehicle. It is also not illegal to have such alcoholic beverages in a house trailer or the living area of a home car or motor home.

Open containers for the following types of alcohol are always illegal:

-- Spirituous liquor

-- Fortified wine

-- Mixed drinks

Those who are facing these charges may be able to build a strong defense. An experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you on how to proceed with such a case.

Source: North Carolina Department of Public Safety, "Transportation of Open Container of Alcohol" Dec. 28, 2014

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