By Jed McKeehan

Tennessee Code Annotated Section 55-10-416 defines an “Open Container,” as a container containing alcoholic beverages or beer, the contents of which are immediately capable of being consumed or the seal of which has been broken.

The statute goes on to say that if the open container is in the possession of the driver and NOT in the possession of any passenger while the motor vehicle is being operated, whether or not the motor vehicle is moving, then the driver of the vehicle is guilty of committing a Class C misdemeanor.

So what does this mean?  It means that a driver cannot drive around with an open container of alcohol.  Not only are they probably guilty of driving under the influence, they will probably get charged with committing the crime of having an open container as well.

However, if you have individuals in the car with you, under Tennessee law they are legally allowed to drink in the vehicle.  There’s a catch though.  Some cities and counties have local ordinances wherein they can fine you for such.  BUT, you have not broken any state law.


Jedidiah McKeehan is an attorney practicing in Knox County and surrounding counties.  He works in many areas, including criminal, personal injury, landlord-tenant, probate, and estate planning. Visit for more information about this legal issue and other legal issues.