Open Container Laws in Virginia

Open Container Laws in Virginia

Any of you who have spent time in New Orleans have no doubt seen people walking around the French Quarter carrying all manner of alcoholic drinks in public, and consuming them without the slightest concern for whether or not a police officer may be watching them. You will see similar scenes of revelry played out in cities throughout the world. You will not, however, see them in Virginia (with a few enjoyable exceptions). That is because Virginia Code 4.1-308 makes it a Class 4 misdemeanor to "take a drink of alcoholic beverage or offer a drink thereof to another, whether accepted or not, at or in any public place". There are exceptions to this policy for areas authorized by the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in licensed drinking establishments, as well as those areas approved for "banquets". The code also provides and exception for alcohol consumed on chartered boats, so long as the boat itself is not selling the alcohol (unless they vessel has a liquor license, in which case it may sell alcohol to patrons aboard).

For whatever reason, this statute is used frequently in Virginia, and individuals posing no real harm to anyone are prosecuted for possessing alcohol outside of a home or licensed establishment. That said, the code has some quirks that can result in the charges being thrown out, and the various city codes relating to this offense usually provide even more ammunition to an aggressive defense attorney. Bottom line, if you were having a little too much fun and an officer decided to put a stop to it, call our office right away!

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