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Is It ILLEGAL for Passengers to Drink Alcohol in a Moving RV?

| Updated Oct 28, 2023

Drivers cannot drink alcohol in a moving RV, but what about passengers? Here's the complexities you need to know…

Some RV passengers may be tempted to enjoy their vacation en route by cracking open a beer or pouring a glass of wine. But before you do, you need to check state laws!

While some states permit RV passengers to drink alcohol in a moving RV, most of them do not. And the ones that do allow it often have very specific stipulations.

We'll explain the basics to you the best we can, but you'll need to check individual state laws before you cross any state lines. We do include a list of states that allow it, but our research is not infallible, and laws can change anytime.

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How to Search State Laws for Drinking in a Moving RV

Before we explain the basics, we'll quickly explain how to research specific state laws about drinking in a moving RV.

You can begin your research by Googling “can passengers drink alcohol in a moving RV in [state name].” Look for a trustworthy resource in the search results, like a government, insurance, or legal website. If you don't get a clear answer, here are some more options…

Call a local police department (the non-emergency line) and ask. However, even policemen get laws wrong, and you can't use their answer as an excuse if you get pulled over and they were wrong.

Call a local traffic law office (especially those specializing in DUIs) and ask. Some will answer free of charge, others won't. This (ironically) may be a more reliable resource than the police department.

Look up open container laws by state. But (because laws are never easy!) know that some states have caveats concerning open containers vs consumption. Let's review that next…

Open Container Laws vs. Consumption

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A minority of states allow passengers to have open containers of alcohol in a vehicle and/or RV. An “open container” is any type of unsealed container that contains or contained an alcoholic beverage.

However, among that minority of states are further differences. Some states allow open containers but do not allow consumption of its contents.

For instance, Arkansas allows open containers in a vehicle, but the driver and passengers are not allowed to drink.

Also, note that some states allow open containers only if they are not within easy reach of the driver. That usually means the passenger in the seat next to the driver cannot have an open container either.

What About Open Containers in your RV Fridge & Pantry?

beer in fridge

It's legal to have open containers of alcohol in your RV fridge or pantry in states that allow open containers in a vehicle. However, for the states that allow open containers but don't allow consumption, you better make sure they are not within easy reach of passengers or the driver!

If the driver or passengers have an open container within reach in a state where consumption is not allowed, they can potentially be fined or arrested. In such states, it's best to keep open containers well out of reach.

The answer is more complicated for the other states that don't allow open containers. Some leniency may be given to RVers who have open containers in a fridge or pantry that's well out of reach of the driver and passengers. But if an officer suspects you hastily shoved open containers away, you might find yourself in big trouble.

In states that don't allow open containers, your safest choice is to never drive with open containers inside a motorhome, even if they're stored away in your RV fridge or pantry. Some states will permit you to store open containers in your RV basement, which would be equivalent to a car's trunk.

States That Allow Open Containers or Allow Passengers to Drink Alcohol

The following states allow passengers to possess an open container or drink alcohol in a vehicle. This information is from FindLaw.com, which is legally reviewed, but we're not guaranteeing its accuracy.

(Again, keep in mind that the proximity of an open container to the driver can still be a problem in some of these states!)

  • Alaska: passengers in a vehicle may consume alcohol from open containers
  • Arkansas: open containers are allowed, but consumption is not allowed
  • Connecticut: passengers may consume alcohol
  • Delaware: passengers may consume alcohol
  • Mississippi: passengers may consume alcohol
  • Rhode Island: The list states that “yes” passengers may possess or consume alcohol. However, the listed law §31-22-21.1 seems to contradict this: “No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon the public highways with any unsealed alcoholic beverage container within the passenger section of the vehicle.”
  • Tennessee: passengers may consume alcohol
  • Virginia: passenger may have open container, but can create a rebuttable presumption that driver was drinking
  • West Virginia: passengers can possess an open container, but consumption is not allowed.

Be careful in the above states that allow open containers but not consumption! Keep those open containers well out of reach of the driver and passengers.

Can Boondockers Drink Alcohol While Parked?

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While it is usually legal to drink alcohol in a parked RV in a campground, the laws get fuzzier with boondocking. It can depend on where you're parked and how settled in you are.

If you're boondocking in a remote location and your campsite is fully set up, then it might be okay. The officers may consider this as parked at a campsite rather than just drinking on the side of the road, so to speak. But many factors could play into it, like if you're on city, federal, or private property.

If you're boondocking in a public area (like on a city street, rest stop, parking lot like Walmart, etc.), chances are you're not allowed to drink. You'll have to resort to the open container and drinking in public laws in such situations.

What About in a 5th Wheel or Travel Trailer?

To answer if you can drink alcohol in a 5th wheel or travel trailer while it's moving, you first need to answer if passengers can legally ride in one. Then, you'll have to further research how consumption laws apply to passengers in such towables.

To learn more about passengers in towables, read Is It Legal to Ride in a 5th Wheel? (Is It Safe?!).

RV Towing Basics You Must Get Right

Like what you see in these videos? We'd appreciate it if you would Subscribe to our YouTube Channel (easy to do right here) and consider “ringing the bell icon” to be notified of any new video from us. 🙂 Thanks!

One of the most daunting parts of camping is RV Towing. Not just how to tow but how to make sure your tow vehicle is up to the task and then how to tow safely and correctly is what we explore in the above video.

Plan Your Next Adventure to Coastal Maine

By popular demand, we announce the publication of the latest in our library of RV travel guides – a 7-Day Adventure Guide to Coastal Maine.

Is It ILLEGAL for Passengers to Drink Alcohol in a Moving RV? 3

With its dramatic rocky coastline, enchanting fishing towns, and windswept sandy beaches, Coastal Maine is a destination that should be on every RVers’ bucket list. 

We call these guides “7 days,” but they really are seven stops. They’re meant to be experienced at your own pace, a couple of days at one stop, a week at another, however long you want.

We have carefully curated this 66-page digital guide (not a printed book) so you can take in all Coastal Maine has to offer. We give you the routes to drive, the spot to stop, the places to eat, and the museums, excursions, hikes and adventures we think you will enjoy the most.

For an RVer, Coastal Maine has it all: stunning landscapes, short drives between stops, spacious campsites, that perfect small city and nature mixed with a seemingly endless variety of things to see and explore.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2023-10-27

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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