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Drink alcohol as a passenger in Louisiana?
February 11, 2009 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Mardis Gras coming up... In Louisiana, is it illegal for a passenger to drink an alcoholic beverage in a traveling automobile?

I have a friend who's going to Mardis Gras soon, and she wants to be able to drink a few cocktails in the car on the road trip, while a non-drinking friend drives. Is this illegal? I've heard conflicting reports of how/if LA conforms to the TA-21 laws. I would like to have the question cleared up before she gets in trouble! Thanks.
posted by chitlin to Law & Government (13 answers total)
 
Looks like it's illegal.
posted by crapmatic at 2:17 PM on February 11, 2009


Crapmatic,

I read that link, too, but it says "vehicle operator" and it doesn't mention passengers.
posted by chitlin at 2:21 PM on February 11, 2009


The actual law states: It shall be unlawful for the operator of a motor vehicle or the passenger in or on a motor vehicle, while the motor vehicle is operated on a public highway or right-of-way, to possess an open alcoholic beverage container, or to consume an alcoholic beverage, in the passenger area of a motor vehicle.
posted by zsazsa at 2:23 PM on February 11, 2009


I was born and raised in Louisiana. Your friend has nothing to worry about. While it's technically illegal to drink and ride as a passenger, it's not a problem to do. As zsazsa mentioned above, it's not illegal to drink, it's illegal to possess an open container.

Many cities and parishes in Louisiana allow drive-through daiquiri sales. I used to work at a fine establishment that was heralded for it's outstanding balance of cost, taste, and alcohol content in the daiquiris. If you talk to a Shreveport native, just say the words vodka freeze and they'll know what I'm talking about.

An unopened can of beer is a sealed container. An unopened bottle of wine is a sealed container. A daiquiri poured into a styrofoam cup with a piece of scotch tape across the lid and straw hole is a sealed container. Seriously.

Purchase your daiquiri. Request that they tape the straw to the lid. Request a second straw. Once you're riding down the highway, pull back the tape and, while leaving straw #1 taped to the lid, insert straw #2. When you're pulled over by the 5-0, you discard straw #2. "What's that officer? No, I haven't been drinking while in the car. Yes, you smell alcohol on my breath because I had a few before I got in the passenger seat. What, that cup? Oh, I just asked them to fill it halfway because I'm watching my waist line. No, I haven't been drinking it in the car. As you can clearly see, the straw is still taped to the lid."

The legend goes that it was my ex-boss who petitioned the state to allow drive-through daiquiri sales. His argument? He presented the judges with a can of beer and a straw-taped daiquiri, and timed them on how long it took to open each container. It was faster to pop the top on the can of beer. Your honor, I rest my case.

For the longest time, the drinking age in LA was 18 instead of 21. Because of this, our federal highway funding was withheld. When you drive across the state line into LA you'll notice that the car goes from a smooooooth thuh-thump............thuh-thump..........thuh-thump to a ka-bangy bang bang whump thump bangy bangy bang whump".
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:42 PM on February 11, 2009 [19 favorites]


That said, it is Louisiana and I've had gas station attendants ask if I need them to open a six pack I just purchased. And the drive-in daiquiri shops believe a closed container means folding over the straw with a bit of tape. So there's definitely a disconnect between the law and the culture.
posted by politikitty at 2:45 PM on February 11, 2009


It's illegal but not particularly enforced.
posted by radioamy at 2:45 PM on February 11, 2009


I'm confused. Isn't consuming an alcoholic beverage the same as drinking an alcoholic beverage? Have I been doing it wrong?
posted by miss lynnster at 2:49 PM on February 11, 2009


miss lynnster - I think the point is that people are advocating lying to the cops. Yes, drinking an alcoholic beverage in a car is illegal. But as it's sealed *wink wink* you couldn't possibly be drinking it.

This is a really bad idea.
posted by muddgirl at 3:24 PM on February 11, 2009


In some states there is an exception for RVs. Looks like in Louisiana you need an RV longer than 21 feet in length.


(I know, I don't have an RV either. But it's definitely a goal of mine to try it sometime.)
posted by kiltedtaco at 4:18 PM on February 11, 2009


I had a case turn on this very statute. In 2005 it is known to me that it was illegal.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:01 PM on February 11, 2009


I was born and raised in Louisiana. Your friend has nothing to worry about. While it's technically illegal to drink and ride as a passenger, it's not a problem to do. As zsazsa mentioned above, it's not illegal to drink, it's illegal to possess an open container.

Advice best not taken.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:04 PM on February 11, 2009


I would tell your friend that you looked it up and found out it's actually illegal.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:21 PM on February 11, 2009


Tell your friend it is quite illegal.

All that stuff about the law and the culture and taped-up straws is fairly true. Maybe your friend will get away with it. But if a cop pulls up beside your friend at a red light and your friend is sipping on a daiquiri, the cop won't wink at you and drive on. Your friend will be in central lock-up. And from what I understand NOPD central lock-up is an unpleasant way to start the lenten season.
posted by gordie at 11:05 PM on February 11, 2009


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