Drinking on The Move in Wentzville: Thoughts from a St. Louis DUI lawyer.
It is not shocking that Missouri (whose unofficial state wildlife is the “Busch”) is known for a highly laissez-faire approach to alcohol regulation. For instance, there is no state-wide law against drinking in public. You can even legally let your children drink. (See RSMO 311.310). I am not saying this is a good idea by the way. There is also no state wide law against open containers in the possession of passengers in vehicles. This pro-alcohol reputation, supported by a strong alcohol industry lobby, continues to grow based on a recent decision by the Board of Alderman in Wentzille. This is the second time in a few months that the alderman have voted down a proposed open container law supported by the local Police Chief.
The bill would have banned passengers in motor vehicles from drinking from, or possessing, open containers of alcoholic beverages while driving through Wentzville. Drivers are already banned from drinking by state-wide laws. The Chief argued that the proposed law is a way to catch drunk drivers “in the act”, as they would not be able to just pass a drink off to a passenger. One argument against the law is that this bill is municipal government overreach and that these laws should not differ from municipality to municipality.
A little over 3% of the cities across the state have municipal laws banning open containers in vehicles including, but not limited to:
Bates City, Bellefontaine Neighbors,
Cabool, Clarence, Clarkson Valley,
Columbia, Crystal City, Cuba, Elsberry,
Foristell, Harrisonville, Hermann, Independence,
Lamar, Lake Lotawanna, Lexington,
Liberty, Licking, Linn, Maryville,
Neosho, New Franklin, Normandy,
Osage Beach, Salisbury, St. Charles, St. John,
Trenton, Verona, Warson Woods, Weston.
This list includes those with bans as of 2005. There is no more recent comprehensive list that I can find at this time. This list of course means that in 96% of the cities in this state… open containers in vehicles are permissible if in possession of a passenger. Note, that if the alcohol is in the console or cup holder… a prosecutor will argue it is in the driver’s possession, not a passenger.
What About Buses?
There IS a state law against drinking intoxicating liquor of any kind in a passenger bus except a chartered bus. (See RSMO 578.315) .
If you are uncertain about the alcohol laws in your municipality, contact St. Louis DUI Attorney Michelle M. Funkenbusch to assist you, 314-338-3500.
Roberts, J. (2005). Missouri State and Local Open Container Laws. Report 30-2005. Retrieved 7/12/12, from University of Missouri Columbia, Institute of Public Policy. Web site: http://ipp.missouri.edu/files/ipp/attachments/missouri_state_and_local_open_container_laws.pdf
Read more about the Wentzville decision at: STLToday Article