Is it legal for a passenger in a motor vehicle to have an open container of alcohol in Tennessee? The answer might surprise you.

What is Considered an Open Container?

"Open Container Laws" prevent the presence of alcoholic beverages that have a missing cap, broken seal, or that have some of the contents removed from the container. These include alcoholic beverages contained in glass bottles, cans, jars, flasks, and any other type of container that can hold an alcoholic beverage like wine sold in boxes or bags.

READ MORE: Is It Legal to Ride in the Bed of a Pickup Truck in Tennessee?

Federal Open Container Legislation


According to FindLaw, the US Congress passed the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998. The federal legislation was designed to encourage states to prohibit open containers in the passenger area of motor vehicles - both for drivers and passengers.

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How to Transport an Open Container Legally

As a general rule, in most states an open container may be transported either in the trunk or the glovebox if it has been locked. Other instances where an open container is permissible in most states include buses, limousines, or even taxis.

attachment-Tennessee Open Container Law

What Tennessee Law Says About an Open Container

In Tennessee, the law is a little different when it comes to open containers. It is illegal to be in possession of an open container while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle that has the ignition on and running - even if the vehicle is not moving. However, it is perfectly legal in the state of Tennessee for a passenger to possess an open container of alcohol inside a motor vehicle.

READ MORE: Is It Legal to Give the Middle Finger to Police in Tennessee?

Is It Legal for Vehicle Passengers in Tennessee to Drink Alcohol?

While it is legal for a passenger in Tennessee to be in possession of an open container in a motor vehicle, what about consuming the contents of that container? As it turns out, it is legal for a person over the age of 21 to consume an alcoholic beverage while riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle in the state of Tennessee, according to law firm of Chattanooga, Tennessee criminal defense attorneys Davis & Hoss, PC. They say, "under Tennessee law it is perfectly legal for any passenger in a car to consume alcohol."

So while it is legal for a passenger to possess and consume an open container of alcohol in Tennessee, it still remains illegal for the driver to possess or consume alcohol while behind the wheel, and it is illegal in Tennessee to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

USPS Says These Items are Prohibited, Restricted, and Non-Mailable

Before you go to drop a package at the post office, be sure you are not trying to mail one of these prohibited, restricted, or non-mailable items.

Gallery Credit: Kat Mykals



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