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What is Possession of Open Container of Alcohol in DC?

What is Possession of Open Container of Alcohol in DCWhat is Possession of Open Container of Alcohol in DC?  Possession of Open container of alcohol in DC is a misdemeanor offense that makes it illegal to drink an alcoholic beverage or possess in an open container of alcoholic beverage in a public place.   Public place includes a street, alley, park, sidewalk, or parking area.  It is also referred to as drinking in public.  The codified law can be found in the DC Code.


Can I drink or have an open container of alcoholic beverage on my front porch?

Yes you can as long as the porch is an integral, structural part of a private residence.  This also includes a terrace, bay window or any area of the private residence that is connected to main house.  

What if I disguise my alcohol?

Placing a brown bag over the beer may not be sufficient.  The Court in District of Columbia held that an officer’s “knowledge, gained from experience, of the taste of whiskey” was sufficient to prove that a beverage contained whiskey.  Stagecrafters Club v. District of Columbia, 89 A.2d 876, 879 (D.C. 1952).   Furthermore, the Court has upheld an open container of alcohol conviction based on an officer’s “sense of smell . . . combined with the significant circumstantial evidence that appellant had been recently drinking.” Derosiers, 19 A.3d at 801.

Can I be intoxicated on my front porch or in front my residence?

No.   you can not be intoxicated on the property.   Obviously if you are inside your house with the door closed you can be intoxicated as long as you are not harming anyone else.  

What if they don't smell Alcohol - don't they have to do a chemical test to determine its alcohol

Here the Court tends to side with the citizen.  The Court held in Reid v. District of Columbia, 980 A.2d 1131, 1133-36 (D.C. 2009), that although the government does not have to chemical analysis, the government must prove beyond just looking at the label on the bottle.   The Court held that proof of alcohol content that was speculative or overly imprecise to be insufficient to sustain an open container of alcohol conviction.  The label on the bottle is some evidence that the liquid in the bottle contains alcohol, and the officers’ observation of the label on the open container would give them probable cause to arrest. See Bean v. United States, 17 A.3d 635, 637 (D.C. 2011).   However, this  falls short of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

What is the maximum penalty for possession of open container of alcohol in DC?

The maximum penalty for open container of alcohol in the District of Columbia is 60 days and/or $500.00 dollar fine.

What should I do If I am charged with possession of open container alcohol in DC

This is the not the crime of the century.  The bigger thing is making sure you do not have a criminal record.  The reality is most people do not go to jail for open container of alcohol in the District of Columbia.  

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