With Thanksgiving upon us, the official holiday season has begun. Many people will celebrate Thanksgiving by hosting a dinner at home for friends and family, and others will choose to treat themselves to a day of not cooking and will go out to eat instead. And just when you have cleaned and put away the last of the Thanksgiving dishes, it will be December and now there are Christmas and other holiday parties or get-togethers to attend.
But what happens if you decide to take an already-opened bottle of special Scotch to share with your hosts at their home? Or what if Aunt Martha presses you to take home a bottle of wine that was opened but not drunk because no one in the family likes rosé? What if you go to a restaurant for Thanksgiving that allows patrons to bring their own bottle of wine, but you only have one glass with your dinner and want to take the bottle home?
Or let's say you and your partner have been traveling across the U.S. in your RV and are parked in a campground in the town where your daughter lives. You drive the RV to her house for your turkey dinner, and when it's time to leave, she hands you a half-empty 12-pack of beer to take with you.
Here is what you need to know about Washington's open-container laws.
Open Containers in Washington
According to RCW 46.61.519, it is illegal to drink any alcoholic beverage in a vehicle when it is on the road, and it is also illegal to have any opened container inside the vehicle while someone is driving. An “opened container” is defined as anything that has been opened, has a broken seal, or is missing some of its contents. There are a few exceptions to this law.
Opened containers can be transported as long as they are in the trunk or otherwise out of reach of the driver or any passengers in the vehicle. So if you plan to transport any opened containers this holiday season, make sure you have a box or crate in your trunk where you can safely put them.
Passengers can drink or hold opened containers as long as they are in the living area of a motor home, RV, or camper. Likewise, passengers who are in a for-hire vehicle (such as a rented limousine driven by a chauffeur) can drink or hold opened containers.
Consuming in Public
Are you going to a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in your town and want to take a flask of whiskey along to keep your toes and fingers warm in the cold? RCW 66.44.100 prohibits consuming liquor in a public place, and it is also illegal to partake in marijuana in a public place. So take a nip of whiskey or a toke of your bud before you head out, and make sure someone else is driving.
Open-Container Defense Attorney
If you were stopped by the police and charged with violating Washington's open-container law, you need to contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi. Steve Karimi is a former prosecutor-turned defender who can help you with your case and get the charges either lessened or dismissed. Call his office today at 206-621-8777 or fill out a contact form to get started on your free consultation.