Ask a Trooper: What are the open bottle laws in Minnesota?

Published 10:28 am Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Question: Can you talk about the open bottle law in Minnesota? Can a person have an alcoholic beverage while operating a boat on a lake? How about if you are a passenger in the back of a motor home?

Answer: It is against the law for any person to consume alcohol in any vehicle while on a public road. Public highways are any road, paved or not, that are open to the public for vehicular traffic.

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The law also applies to open alcohol containers that are accessible to the driver and passengers. To transport open alcohol containers legally, it must be kept in the trunk or an area that is not readily accessible to occupants of the vehicle.

Troy Christianson

The driver of a motor vehicle can be cited for allowing an open bottle, even if they are not in possession themselves.

The same law applies in a motor home. No person may legally consume alcoholic beverages whether they are the driver or passenger, regardless of where they are in the motor home, while on a public road.

All occupants must use good judgement when in a motor vehicle. An open alcohol container is a clue we look for when investigating a possible DWI. An operator of a motor vehicle can be arrested for DWI anywhere within the state of Minnesota if found to be under the influence.

Drinking and driving could have a deadly outcome for you, your passengers and other motorists sharing the road.

The following motorized vehicles are exempt from Minnesota’s open container law:

• Off-road vehicles (ATVs) — unless they are being operated on roadways or shoulder of a roadway that is not part of a grant-in-aid trail or trail designated for that vehicle

• Motorized boats

• Buses operated by a hired driver

• A vehicle providing limousine service

Boat operators are exempt from this law as they are not being operated on a public road; however, if you are consuming alcohol on the water, the best practice is to have a sober driver because alcohol impairs judgement. There have been many tragic stories on our lakes and rivers where an impaired boat operator has caused a fatal or serious crash. It is important to note that boat operators can be cited for operating under the influence. 

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester, MN 55901-5848; or reach him at

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.