Washington’s Open Container Laws Explained

Friends drinking in car

Most states have open container laws. These are largely to discourage the act of literally drinking while driving. However, Washington state has an additional factor in open container law: marijuana. That’s why we believe it’s important to explain Washington’s open container laws in a manner that everyone can understand.

What is an Open Container?

In Washington, an open container describes any vessel containing alcohol with a broken seal or with liquid partially removed. Whether it’s a flask or a half drank bottle in the back seat, it is considered an open container.

Cannabis is also included under open container laws. It is an infraction to drive while consuming cannabis in any form. This could also include keeping marijuana in an unmarked container. Washington law is specific in describing cannabis as any part of the plant. Whether it’s seeds, leaves, stems, or buds, having it within a driver’s reach could result in a fine.

Are There Exceptions?

You may store open alcohol or cannabis in a vehicle so long as it is unreachable from the driver’s seat. That normally means the trunk or the bed of a truck. While other states usually allow storage of open containers in glove boxes or even in a storage container in the backseat, Washington does not. Any open container should go in the very back of the car.

You may wonder how open container laws affect party buses and limos offering alcohol. These businesses have a license granting them an exception to the rule. License holders can serve alcohol in a moving vehicle so long as they receive payment for doing so.

RVs and Campers are also exempt from Washington’s open container laws. Drinking in one of these vehicles does not require a license so long as it occurs in the vehicle’s living space and not in the vehicle’s cabin.

If you received an open container infraction, you might want legal representation. If you’d like an experienced Tacoma criminal attorney from Hester Law Group to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (253) 300-3034.