“Open container” means any container containing an alcoholic beverage the contents of which are immediately edible or whose seal has been broken. A driver is considered to be in possession of an open container if the beverage is not in the possession of a passenger and is not in a closed glove compartment, trunk or other passenger area of the motor vehicle. Finally, for the purposes of the Tennessee Open Container Act, a motor vehicle does not have to move, but is considered “running” when its engine is switched on. An open container violation is a Class C offense in Tennessee. In general, this means that it is a citable crime. However, a driver accused of having an open container could be arrested if they refuse to accept and sign the ticket. Open container violations themselves are not necessarily the most serious problem. But an officer could use an alleged open container offense as probable cause to conduct field sobriety tests, look for drugs or determine the history of the driver and passengers. This could result in one or more of them facing other, much more serious criminal charges. Tennessee law prohibits the consumption or possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage while operating a motor vehicle. While some Tennessee municipal ordinances may be more restrictive, the Tennessee State Code does not prohibit passengers from consuming or possessing alcoholic beverages.
Similarly, municipal and/or local ordinances may also prohibit the possession of open liquor in places other than a motor vehicle (e.g., when present in a public place). (B) An open means of containment is in the possession of the driver if it is not in the possession of a passenger and is not in a glove compartment, trunk or other enclosed area of the vehicle; and some states — including Tennessee — do not have laws compliant with the TEA-21 protocols on open containers. The Tennessee law, found in Section 55-10-416 of the Tennessee Code, is unique in that it applies only to the driver of the vehicle. The law further states that if the open container is in the possession of the driver and NOT in the possession of a passenger while the motor vehicle is in motion, regardless of whether the motor vehicle is in motion or not, the driver of the vehicle is guilty of committing a Class C offence. What does that mean? This means that a driver cannot drive with an open container of alcohol. Not only are they likely guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol, but they are also likely to be charged with the crime of having an open container. (a) 1. It is prohibited for a driver to consume alcoholic beverages or beer or to possess an open container of alcoholic beverages or beer while operating a motor vehicle in that condition. (A) `open container` means any container containing alcoholic beverages or beer the contents of which are immediately edible or the seal of which has been broken; (c) Nothing in this section shall be construed as prohibiting a municipality, by ordinance or county or by resolution, from prohibiting passengers of a motor vehicle from consuming or possessing an alcoholic beverage or beer in an open container while the driver of the vehicle is driving the vehicle, or from limiting the penalties permitted by law for violation of the order or decision.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) of 1998 is a federal law designed to reduce alcohol consumption in vehicles. As a result of TEA-21, more than 40 jurisdictions now have open container laws that apply to both drivers and passengers. In these areas, no occupant of the vehicle has access to an open bottle, can, bottle or other container with a broken seal or liquid that has been extracted. However, counties, cities or other municipalities may have their own resolutions prohibiting passengers from consuming or possessing an alcoholic beverage or beer while the vehicle is in motion. (2) In the event of a violation of this section, a law enforcement officer shall issue a reprimand in lieu of continued detention, unless the offender refuses to sign and accept the summons in accordance with article 40-7-118. (b) 1. An offence under this section is a Class C offence punishable only by a fine. Although Tennessee`s law is more liberal than many others, it does provide the following: However, if you have people in the car, Tennessee law allows them to legally drink from the vehicle. However, there is a catch. Some cities and counties have local ordinances where they can punish you for it.
BUT, you have not broken any state laws. (c) A motor vehicle is in motion when its engine is running, whether it is in motion or not;.