Open alcohol container in your RV? You may be breaking the law!

Open alcohol container in your RV? You may be breaking the law!

A man’s home is his castle — so says English law. Since an RV for many is a home, does that mean your RV is your castle? There’s a question for the courts, the legal experts, and the ‘rights of privacy’ groups to thrash out. But here’s a related question that can trip up an RVer in a hurry: Is it okay to have an “open container” of alcohol in your motorhome while traveling down America’s byways?

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 6.41.13 PMA frequent comment made by the fireside, and in some Internet RV forums is, “Sure, no problem!” In some states you’d be right but in others legally wrong. Here’s the scoop:

Open container laws are generally written to keep a driver from having too easy an access to liquor while keeping his vehicle safely on the road. And those laws are not a federal mandate, but a state’s rights matter. Hence, making a blanket statement could lead to a traffic ticket — and some of them bring pretty steep fines.

In California, a passenger in a motorhome in possession of an open alcohol container is not a problem; neither is the situation like this “citation-able” in Maine, nor Montana. It gets trickier in Florida — how big is your motorhome? If you’ve got a 20′ foot motorhome an open container is a violation. And Wisconsin? It may seem cheesy to some, but no open containers in any RV.

In some states, where it’s legal to have an open alcohol container on board, it depends on where it’s stored: It’s never a good idea to have an open bottle in easy reach of a driver, nor is it good to have an open bottle of alcohol on board if there’s evidence the driver has been drinking.

Bottom line: If having an open container of alcohol while on the road is important to you, you’re highly advised to check out the laws of any state you plan on RVing through before you get there.

Here are two state’s laws about alcohol in RVs.

Illinois
See reference on the state DMV’s website
[It’s okay to have an open container of alcohol on board when. . .]
A self‑contained motor vehicle, not used commercially, designed or permanently converted to provide living quarters for recreational, camping or travel use, with direct walk through access to the living quarters from the driver’s seat. . . . must include at least four of the following:
•A cooking facility with an on‑board fuel source;
•A gas or electric refrigerator;
•A toilet with exterior evacuation;
•A heating or air conditioning system with an on‑board power or fuel source separate from the vehicle engine;
•A potable water supply system that includes at least a sink, a faucet, and a water tank with an exterior service supply connection;
•A 110‑125 volt electric power supply.

Wisconsin
See reference on the state DMV’s website
May you have alcoholic beverages in your vehicle in Wisconsin?
No, you cannot have an opened container on your person in a motor vehicle on a public highway. Containers of alcoholic beverages with the seal broken must be transported in the trunk, or in a portion of the vehicle not normally occupied by passengers if the vehicle does not have a trunk — not the glove compartment.

May you drink alcohol in a motor home?
Open container laws apply to all motor vehicles, including motor homes and pickup campers, except motor buses which are vehicles designed to transport people and having a passenger carrying capacity of 16 or more persons and chauffeur driven.

#FB-4/25/16

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