Can you drive with takeout alcohol? Explaining Ohio’s open container laws

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — To-go alcohol sales recently became permanent. Alcohol can now come in coffee, soda, and even slushy cups.

But is it okay to put that takeout container in the cupholder next to the driver’s seat?

“You can go to an establishment, pick up some food, you’re actually allowed to pick up a beverage, and then take that beverage back home with you to be able to drink there,” Sgt. Nathan Dennis of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.

OSHP patrol expects to see a variety of containers, including coffee, soda, and slushy cups, said Enforcement Commander Eric Wolf.

People are expected to keep the alcoholic drink sealed until they arrive home, said Enforcement Commander Wolf. “There’s no need to consume that alcohol during transportation, and in fact, it’s a criminal act.”

The sealed cup of sangria, or closed mason jar Moscow Mule, doesn’t have to travel in the back seat or the trunk. “The only restriction for transportation is that it remains closed and sealed,” Enforcement Commander Wolf said.

Sgt. Dennis says there has been an uptick in traffic fatalities linked to impaired driving. As always, troopers will be watchful for tell-tale signs.

“Those bloodshot, glassy eyes, slurred speech, the odor of alcoholic beverages coming from the person’s breath and other factors as well,” said Sgt. Dennis. “It includes the type of driving or moving violation that we stopped that person for.”

“We take all those things into consideration, and then ask that person to step out and perform field sobriety testing.”

As to people’s temptation to sip on that boozy drink before getting home, Enforcement Commander Wolf said: “This certainly does increase the possibility of consumption in a motor vehicle of alcoholic beverages. It’s increased availability both from the bars and restaurants, as well as some of the gas stations and carry-outs are looking at alcoholic slushy options to go.”

“There’s certainly an increased opportunity, and we don’t want to see that increased consumption in motor vehicles leading to other troubles down the road.”

As always, even though that soda cup looks tempting, if it has alcohol in it, it’s still illegal to sip on it.

“Once you take it, do not open and do not drink it until you get home,” Sgt. Dennis warned.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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