Is There an Open Container Law in Missouri?

While it is legal to drink an alcoholic beverage to socialize or celebrate with friends, state and local laws specify where you may and may not drink or have open containers of alcohol.


When it comes to open container regulations in the United States, one of the most important considerations is your car. So, what exactly is the Missouri Open Container Law, and how does it apply to you?

Why Are There Open Container Laws in Missouri?

It may appear harmless to have an opened bottle of wine or a can of beer in your car if you are not intoxicated or drinking while driving. However, most states have laws prohibiting the possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages in public places, including your car, while it’s on the road.


Most states passed open container laws in reaction to drunk driving accidents, public intoxication, and other alcohol-related offenses. The Transportation Equity Act for the Twenty-First Century (TEA-21) of 1998 was a watershed moment for open container laws, incentivizing states to enforce stronger drunk driving laws in exchange for cash to enhance their roadways.


An “open container” is an open container holding alcohol in the passenger compartment of a vehicle. These containers may hold, but are not limited to:

  • Bottles
  • Cans
  • Flasks


What Is the Open Container Law in Missouri?

Because Missouri lacks a statewide open container regulation, it is legal for non-driving passengers who are 21 or older to have an open container and drink in the car. It should be noted, however, that this is not universally acknowledged in every municipality. Some cities and towns have laws that prohibit open containers in vehicles.


You and your passengers are responsible for being aware of your area’s open container rules.


What Qualifies as an Open Container?

Open containers in cars are usually defined in states that prohibit them as being: 

  • Capable of retaining liquid
  • Containing any or all of an alcoholic beverage
  • Unsealed or otherwise not in the same condition as when it was first shipped from the manufacturer
  • Easily accessible to the driver and not hidden behind a partition or another solid container


What Are the Consequences of Missouri’s Open Container Laws?

Unlike many other states, Missouri has not criminalized the act of driving a car with an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment. While having open alcoholic beverages in a car is legal in Missouri, it violates federal safety laws.

As a result, since 2001, a significant portion of government funds that would otherwise be utilized for highway building and repair have been redirected to safety programs. A total of $370 million in funding has been reallocated.


While many might expect Missouri’s lack of an open container prohibition to result in an increase in DWI-related fatalities, the opposite appears to be true. For instance, although the national rate of motor vehicle fatalities decreased by 14% between 2001 and 2019, Missouri’s traffic fatality rate decreased by 20% during the same time period.


In Missouri, What Is the Legal Drinking Age?

Anyone under the age of 21 is prohibited from purchasing, attempting to purchase, or possessing alcohol.


What Exactly Is a “Minor in Possession” in Missouri?

Minor in Possession is a crime committed when a person under the age of 21 attempts to acquire or possess alcohol, is visibly inebriated or has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greater than.02%. In short, simply seeming overtly inebriated is unlawful. Minor in Possession can result in up to a year in county jail and a $1000 fine.


Can My Parents Serve Alcohol to Me in Missouri?

Missouri law does not ban parents and guardians from providing alcohol to their children in tiny amounts in their households. However, if a parent or guardian intentionally intoxicates their child, it may be deemed child abuse. The minor may also be charged with Minor in Possession.


Can I Buy Alcohol from Other Adults in Missouri?

No! It is often illegal to provide alcohol to children. There are a few exceptions for physicians who provide alcohol on medical grounds and parents and guardians who provide minor amounts of alcohol.


Can I Work in an Alcoholic Beverage Establishment in Missouri?

Missouri alcohol regulations allow adults 18 and older to serve alcohol on the premises where it will be consumed. All bartenders (those who prepare drinks) must be 21 years old or older. Adults 18 and older may sell alcohol in establishments where it will be drunk off-premises (for example, gas stations that sell alcohol), but a supervisor must be present.


What if I Have Fake Missouri Identification?

If you purchase alcohol while under the age of 21, you may be charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense. You may be labeled a delinquent child under the juvenile justice system if you are under the age of 17. Using a phony ID to purchase alcohol may also result in the suspension of your license under Missouri’s Abuse and Lose Law.


Is it Ever Okay to Drink and Drive in Missouri?

While having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is permitted, it is never legal to drink and drive or drive while drunk. Both actions can result in criminal and civil penalties.


What Happens If I Drive After Having Consumed Alcohol in Missouri?

You could be charged with drunk driving (DWI) if you drive after drinking. A DWI is a criminal violation that can result in the loss of your license. In most cases, you will face penalties and imprisonment.

What Is the “Abuse and Lose” Statute in Missouri?

When a person under the age of 21 is charged with “minor in possession,” “false identification,” or “drug possession,” Missouri’s “abuse and loss” law kicks in. If a person is charged with one of these charges, their driving privileges may be banned for 90 days on the first offense and up to a year on successive offenses.


Does Missouri Use BAC Tests?

A blood alcohol test (BAC) determines the amount of alcohol in your blood. It is used to determine whether or not a person is inebriated. A BAC test can be performed on your breath, blood, or urine. The most prevalent tests are breathalyzer testing and blood draws that are tested at a hospital or lab.


What Is Implied Consent in Missouri?

Anyone who operates a vehicle within Missouri is considered to have consented to BAC testing if they have been arrested and there are reasonable grounds to believe they have been driving while intoxicated, or if they are under 21 and there are reasonable grounds to think their BAC is at least.


What Happens If I Refuse a BAC Test in Missouri?

If you refuse a valid request by an officer to test your BAC, your license will be revoked for one year. Suppose the driver has a history of alcohol-related incidents. In that case, an ignition interlock device will be required for at least six months after the revocation (you will have to blow into a BAC machine to start your engine). If the officer requests a warrant for a blood draw, you may be unable to decline.


Keep in Mind any Local Ordinances

Many localities have laws that make it illegal for drivers and passengers to consume alcohol while driving or riding in an open vehicle. Most local ordinances restrict containers from being placed in seating areas or easily accessible areas, including the glove box compartment.


Passengers who violate municipal ordinances may face fines of up to $500 and up to 90 days in prison.

Drivers must be aware of the city code before carrying an open container due to differences in city law.


Which Cities in Missouri Have Open Container Laws?

Passengers in St. Louis and Kansas City are not prohibited from driving with an open bottle of alcohol. Because neither city has enacted open container regulations, those locations are subject to state law.


Passengers must keep their bottles closed while traveling through St. Charles, Foristell, Columbia, Bates City, and Independence. A level of trust is offered to drivers that they will not consume alcohol while driving, and drivers will not operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08. Driving while inebriated is still banned.


How to Save Money on Missouri Car Insurance

The best piece of advice about saving money on car insurance remains simple: Don’t drink and drive or get traffic tickets.


Questions About Missouri Open Container Laws? Contact a DWI Attorney in Kansas City

Contact the Law Office of Benjamin Arnold to set up a free consultation appointment with a KC DWI lawyer and learn how we’ve helped previous clients cope with DWI and other related issues.

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