For most people, living and working in and around Kansas City means navigating the laws of two different states. Many are essentially the same, but there are some important differences that can create problems.
One area where Kansas law differs from Missouri law involves open containers of alcoholic beverages. You could start off your drive in Missouri in compliance with the law and cross over into Kansas and be in violation of it.
Kansas state law
Under Kansas law, it’s typically illegal to have alcohol inside a vehicle where a driver can reach it unless it’s “in the original unopened package or container, the seal of which has not been broken and from which the original cap, cork or other means of closure has not been removed.”
An “open container” doesn’t literally have to be open. For example, if someone has opened a bottle of vodka and then put the cap back on, it’s an open container under the law. An open container can legally be transported in a trunk or other locked compartment “not accessible to any person in the vehicle while it is in motion.” If a vehicle doesn’t have a truck, an open container can be placed “in an area not normally occupied by the driver or a passenger.”
An open container conviction is a misdemeanor that carries potential penalties of a fine, jail time and driver’s license suspension. Further, if you are caught with an open container, law enforcement officers will take some time to determine whether you’ve been drinking.
Missouri state law
Missouri, on the other hand, has no open container law. Further, even if someone is caught drinking while driving, assuming that they’re old enough to drink legally and not over the legal limit or impaired, that offense is considered an “infraction” that “shall not be reflected on any records maintained by the department of revenue.”
Note that individual localities can have their own regulations that may be more restrictive than state law. Further, it’s simply not a good idea to have alcohol accessible to anyone in your vehicle nor should anyone be consuming it while you’re on the road – no matter where you are.
If you are facing an open container charge, it’s important to understand the potential consequences and to have legal guidance to help protect your rights.