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National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
Tennessee Bar Association
National College of DUI Defense
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DUI Defense Lawyers Association

Drinking While Riding Ban

The party buses that bump down Broadway, packed full of screaming bridal parties or even the occasional hot tub with 10 full grown men is, for better or for worse, a current Nashville staple. Unfortunately for the transportainment industry, and bachelorette parties, Metro Nashville Council is considering a bill that will ban drinking alcohol while riding in a vehicle.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Tennessee Open Container law, you may have assumed that the current rule does not allow for anyone in a vehicle to possess an open container of alcohol. In fact, the statute states:

(a)(1) No driver shall consume any alcoholic beverage or beer or possess an open container of alcoholic beverage or beer while operating a motor vehicle in this state.

(2) For purposes of this section:

(A) “Open container” means any container containing alcoholic beverages or beer, the contents of which are immediately capable of being consumed or the seal of which has been broken;

(B) An open container is in the possession of the driver when it is not in the possession of any passenger and is not located in a closed glove compartment, trunk or other nonpassenger area of the vehicle; and

(C) A motor vehicle is in operation if its engine is operating, whether or not the motor vehicle is moving.

Tenn. Code Ann. §55-10-416. The Tennessee law allows for cities and municipalities to decide whether passengers in a vehicle may have an open container. Obviously, the driver may not be impaired or drinking alcohol while driving. 

Currently, passengers are permitted to have an open container, therefore the party buses allow patrons to bring alcohol onto the buses. This could change if Metro Nashville Council bans all persons, i.e. passengers, in a vehicle from having an open container. Meaning, the tourists and party goers will not be allowed to drink alcohol on the party buses; nor will you be allowed to have a road beer on the way to a Nashville Predators game. WKRN posted an article regarding the bill and the rationale espoused by supporters of the ban, which can be viewed here. Mothers Against Drunk Driving argue it will reduce driving fatalities, whereas Councilmember Sean Parker believes the alcohol in vehicles contributes to violent road rage and littering. If the ban passes the buses may continue to offer tours and stops at various bars to allow patrons the opportunity to drink, however, the cocktails will have to remain in the bar.

Whatever the circumstances, if you find yourself in violation of the Tennessee Open Container law, contact a criminal defense attorney with Baker Associates today.