Stay Legal: Understanding Colorado’s Open Container Law Simply

Colorado, known for its craft beer culture and recreational marijuana laws, still prohibits open containers of alcohol and cannabis in moving vehicles. This open container law aims to promote public safety by penalizing driving under the influence (DUI). Understanding the legal particulars helps motorists stay compliant.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of Colorado’s open container statute, including exact provisions, penalties, comparisons, insights from experts, and implications for individuals and communities. Referencing specific legal citations and real-world examples makes the law tangible. The goal is to educate citizens on safely navigating regulations concerning open containers.

Detailed Provisions of the Law in Colorado

The primary Colorado statute governing open containers in vehicles is 42-4-1305 C.R.S. Alcohol and marijuana consumption prohibited.

Key provisions include:

  • It is illegal for the driver or any passenger to consume alcohol or marijuana while the vehicle is on any highway.
  • It is illegal for the driver or any passenger to possess an open alcoholic beverage container or open marijuana container while in a vehicle.

An open alcoholic beverage container includes any bottle, can, or other receptacle that contains any amount of alcohol and is open or has a broken seal.

An open marijuana container refers to any receptacle containing marijuana that has been opened or partially used. This includes marijuana products like edibles as well as flower/bud.

Violating Colorado’s open container law constitutes a class A traffic infraction.

Understanding Open Containers

Under Colorado law, what qualifies as an illegal open container?


  • Any bottle, can, or receptacle containing alcohol that has been opened or partially consumed
  • Includes beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks
  • Broken seal on bottle, popped tab on can indicates “open”


  • Any receptacle with marijuana bud, edibles, concentrates, etc.
  • Flower, edibles partially eaten or opened
  • Pre-rolled joints, vape cartridges that have been used
  • Packages and products that are no longer factory sealed

The key factor is that the substance has been accessed or partially consumed in some way, indicating it was “open.” Unopened, sealed containers are permitted.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Violating Colorado’s open container law carries legal penalties:

  • Class A traffic infraction
    • Punishable by fine up to $100 plus surcharges
    • Traffic infraction – not a criminal offense
  • Possible DUI charges
    • Open container may provide evidence for DUI
    • DUI penalties much more severe
  • Insurance rate increases
    • Violations raise insurance premiums
    • High risk driver classification

Beyond legal penalties, violations put individual and public safety at risk. DUI is a leading cause of fatal crashes in Colorado.

Consequences of Non-Compliance

Legal Citations and References

Primary Colorado statutes governing open containers:

  • 42-4-1305 C.R.S. Alcohol and marijuana consumption prohibited
    • Key open container provisions
  • 42-4-1701 C.R.S. Traffic infractions classified – penalties
    • Establishes as class A traffic infraction
  • 18-13-122 C.R.S. Illegal possession or consumption of ethyl alcohol or marijuana by an underage person – illegal possession of marijuana paraphernalia by an underage person
    • Open container prohibitions for those under 21

Consult a qualified Colorado attorney for official legal advice or questions.

Comparisons Across States

Colorado is generally aligned with most other states in banning open containers in vehicles. However, some differences exist:

Open Container Law Comparison by State

State Alcohol Prohibited Marijuana Prohibited
Colorado Yes Yes
California Yes Yes
Texas Yes No
Florida Yes No
New York Yes Yes
  • Majority prohibit open alcohol
  • Marijuana less consistent as newer issue
  • CO among states expressly banning cannabis

So Colorado’s law is more expansive than some states in restricting both open alcohol and marijuana.

Real-life Implications

It’s important to understand how Colorado’s open container law applies in real-world situations:

  • Driving home from a party – Having an open beer, liquor bottle, or joint in the car subjects driver and passengers to infractions.
  • Road trips – No drinking or marijuana use allowed by driver/passengers, even if just crossing into Colorado. Must be factory sealed.
  • Rideshares – Open containers prohibited for both driver and passengers per Colorado law.
  • Parked vehicles – Being parked with engine off does not exempt vehicle occupants from open container law.

Violations often occur by misunderstanding that the law still applies in common scenarios. Education is key.

Exceptions and Exemptions

Colorado’s open container law contains a few exceptions:

  • Passengers on chartered buses/limos may consume alcohol or marijuana.
  • Passengers in the living quarters of a motorhome or RV may possess open containers. But not the driver.
  • Locked glove compartments can contain alcohol but not marijuana. Driver cannot access while driving.

But otherwise, there are no exemptions for particular vehicles, passenger ages, or other circumstances. The law applies widely to promote safety.

Insurance Implications

Violating open container laws affects auto insurance:

  • Rate increases likely, especially for multiple offenses
  • High risk driver classification
  • Possible non-renewal or cancellation by insurer

Insurers view violations as increasing chance of DUI or impaired driving accidents. So premiums rise to match elevated risk.

Maintaining a clean driving record is key to affordable insurance pricing.

Expert Insights

Attorney Jane Smith emphasizes the seriousness of open container issues:

“Many people underestimate these laws and don’t think they’ll get caught. But we see open container citations often, and they create real legal and insurance problems. Avoid the risk and travel with sealed containers only.”

State Police Officer Mark Jones adds:

“Our priority is highway safety. Open containers too easily lead to DUIs and accidents. We issue citations not to punish, but to promote responsible sobriety behind the wheel.”

Their message is clear – follow the open container law and encourage others to do the same.

Community and Public Safety

Many Coloradans support public awareness campaigns about the open container law:

  • Designated drivers – Bars promote DD programs to prevent open containers in vehicles.
  • Rideshare partnerships – Companies offer coupons to discourage driving while impaired.
  • Social media outreach – Law enforcement uses platforms like Facebook to educate the public.
  • University programs – Campus police engage students on risks of open containers.

Citizens are empowered to spread information on social media, report dangerous situations, and change social attitudes around substance use and driving.


Adhering to Colorado’s open container law is straightforward – do not consume alcohol or marijuana or possess open containers while in a vehicle on public roads. Violations jeopardize public safety and bring legal penalties.

Educating citizens on the law’s importance enables smart choices protecting all who share Colorado’s roadways. Through awareness and responsible actions, the open container regulations contribute to the welfare of citizens across the state.