The Crime

Tennessee law prohibits the consumption or possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle.  Although some Tennessee municipal ordinances may be more restrictive, the Tennessee State Code accordingly does not prohibit passengers from consuming or possessing alcohol beverages.  Similarly, municipal and/or local ordinances may also prohibit being in possession of open alcoholic beverages in locations other than a motor vehicle (e.g., while present in a public location).

An “open container” includes any container of an alcoholic beverage whose contents are immediately capable of being consumed or the seal of which has been broken.  A driver is considered in possession of an open container, when the beverage is not in the possession of any passenger and is not located in a closed glove compartment, trunk or other non-passenger area of the motor vehicle.  Finally, for purposes of the Tennessee Open Container law, a motor vehicle need not be moving, but is considered “in operation” if its engine is turned on.

[Source: Tennessee Code Annotated § 55-10-416] 

The Penalties

Under Tennessee law, Open Container is a Class C Misdemeanor and may result in some or all of the following consequences:

  1. A sentence of up to 30 days in jail;
  2. A probationary period;
  3. A fine of up to $50;
  4. Court costs.

[Source: Tennessee Code Annotated § 39-17-310]

Other Consequences of an Open Container Conviction and the Importance of Hiring an Attorney

In addition to the court-mandated penalties described above, a person convicted of Open Container may also be exposed to collateral (other) consequences. An Open Container conviction may result in the loss of college scholarships or the ability to seek admission to higher learning institutions.  A conviction may also impact one’s ability to maintain or seek employment, and result in negative action to a professional license (e.g., nursing).  An experienced Tennessee Criminal Defense Attorney provides the best opportunity to avoid a jail sentence, conviction, or other related consequences.

Except in rare circumstances an Open Container conviction will ALWAYS stay on a person’s public record (criminal history).  This means that current and future employers, as well as the general public, may access records of one’s Open Container conviction.  For more information about Tennessee expungement law, you may wish to review the information contained on our sister website, http://www.eraseyourrecord.com/index.html.  

Why Hire a Lawyer Immediately?

It is critical to act quickly in order to gather and preserve favorable evidence.  Certain witnesses need to be interviewed as soon as possible.  Key evidence (faces, dates, events, and conversations) fades from memory over time.  Also, video recordings and other evidence may be destroyed.  Therefore, it is important to begin an investigation as soon as possible to ensure valuable evidence is not lost.  Success or failure in any criminal case may be determined in the decisions of the defendant and his or her Tennessee Criminal Lawyer in only a few hours or days after an arrest.

Contact Us Today

If you or someone you know has recently been arrested, contact the Oberman & Rice Law Firm today so that we can begin preparing a defense for your case. Submit your information for a free case evaluation from our East Tennessee criminal defense attorneys or call our office at 865-249-7200.