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Iowa’s Open Container Laws Explained

In Iowa, having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle or in a public place can quickly lead to legal trouble. Understanding the state’s open container laws is crucial to avoiding charges.

What The Law Says About Open Containers

According to state law, it is illegal for anyone to possess an open container of alcohol or consume alcohol in a vehicle on Iowa’s public roads or parking areas. This also extends to having an open container as a pedestrian on public streets, sidewalks, parks and other public areas.

What’s Considered An Open Container?

Iowa’s legal definition of an open container in a vehicle is any bottle, can or other receptacle that:

  • Contains any amount of alcohol
  • Has been opened or had the seal broken
  • Is present in the passenger area of the vehicle

This definition doesn’t only refer to bottles and cans in which alcoholic beverages are normally sold but also to flasks, tumblers and other resealable receptacles in which an alcoholic drink may be transferred and stored.

Moreover, the specification that the container must be present in the passenger area of the vehicle applies to both drivers and passengers, regardless of who opened the container. Even empty bottles that previously held alcohol qualify as open containers under state law.

Breaking Iowa’s Open Container Laws

Violating open container laws may potentially lead to serious penalties. These include:

  • The first offense is a simple misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $260 fine.
  • Subsequent violations may be punished as aggravated misdemeanors.

In addition to the fines, an open container charge could lead to a costly surcharge on your vehicle insurance rates. The offense also goes on your driving record, which can lead to license suspension or revocation.

Don’t Risk An Open Container Charge

Even if you aren’t facing drinking and driving charges, an open container in your vehicle is enough for law enforcement to make an arrest. These charges should be taken seriously. If you or a loved one is facing open container allegations, our Lombardi & Miler Law Firm PLLC criminal defense team can help protect your rights. Call us at 515-513-5324 or contact us online to discuss your case.