We’ve all heard that “drinking and driving” is illegal. By that we generally mean that it is illegal to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. But there is nothing illegal about drinking alcohol and then driving, so long as you’re not under the influence of alcohol. But be careful, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in your car while driving, even if you’re not under the influence of alcohol. Virginia Code § 18.2-323.1 states that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person to consume an alcoholic beverage while driving a motor vehicle . . .” This means you can’t drive with an open container of alcohol in your car, even if you’re 100% sober. You’ll be in violation of this code section if the open container is located anywhere in the passenger area of the vehicle, which means “the area designed to seat the driver of any motor vehicle, any area within the reach of the driver, including an unlocked glove compartment, and the area designed to seat passengers.” A violation of this code section is only a class 4 misdemeanor, which means it is only punishable by a fine. However, as I tell my clients, you should always try to avoid any illegal conduct that will result in interaction with law enforcement. One small violation can lead to bigger problems, so be smart: don’t take a roadie if you’re driving!
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