Can alcohol be consumed in a moving RV?
March 28, 2007 3:11 PM   Subscribe

Is it legal for alcohol to be consumed in an RV (recreational vehicle)while it is moving on the road?

I have looked and looked but I can not find any laws allowing alcohol, or disallowing alcohol to be drank in the back of of an RV in transit.

To sum it up, i have a school bus registered as a personnal Recreational Vehicle (motor home), which some friends and I are going to take from Seattle to Michigan and back this summer. We are not clear if alcohol can be consumed in the back of a moving RV. The drivers will not be drinking, and we will by no means getting 'out of control' drunk. We just want to know if it's actually legal or not?

Some people say yes. Some no. Some people tell me there has to be a wall diving the back from the driver. Some people tell me it has to be a certain amount of feet away from the driver. And I know people do it. But is it legal? Thanks.
posted by Sprocket to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My understanding, and I could be wrong, is that driving-related laws vary from state to state.
posted by box at 3:21 PM on March 28, 2007

It better be! Otherwise, I'm the biggest criminal west of the pecos!

Actually, box has it. Each state is different. Might give you something to look forward to as you go from state to state...
posted by Aquaman at 3:25 PM on March 28, 2007

Maybe call a "party bus" company and ask about those regulations. Other option would be call the DMV, but I generally don't wish that on my worst enemy. You may want to call someone in each state you will be in, or at least someone familiar with those states.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:27 PM on March 28, 2007

People pretty commonly drink in the back of limousines.. Why would this kind of vehicle be any different? (I'm sure someone might have a legitimate explanation of why)
posted by jozxyqk at 3:33 PM on March 28, 2007

here is a list of states where open containers are legal (doesn't look good 43/50 prohibit them)
posted by jourman2 at 3:42 PM on March 28, 2007

What you're interested in are called "open container" laws.

That site includes Alabama's version as an example, which you'll note provides exceptions for vehicles driven by commercial drivers (the party bus/limousine exception) and for "A passenger of a motorized or non-motorized self-contained camper, motor home, house coach, or house trailer."
Obviously, every state is different. I'd make a list of all the states you plan to pass through and look up each version, just to be safe.
posted by Partial Law at 3:46 PM on March 28, 2007

You will have to determine this for each state. For example in Illinois (just the first one that was easy to find) it looks like you'll need to add some amenities to your bus to qualify under Sec. 1-145.01.

(625 ILCS 5/11‑502) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11‑502)
Sec. 11‑502. Transportation or possession of alcoholic liquor in a motor vehicle.
(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c) and in Section 6‑33 of the Liquor Control Act of 1934, no driver may transport, carry, possess or have any alcoholic liquor within the passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State except in the original container and with the seal unbroken.
(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c) and in Section 6‑33 of the Liquor Control Act of 1934, no passenger may carry, possess or have any alcoholic liquor within any passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State except in the original container and with the seal unbroken.
(c) This Section shall not apply to the passengers in a limousine when it is being used for purposes for which a limousine is ordinarily used, the passengers on a chartered bus when it is being used for purposes for which chartered buses are ordinarily used or on a motor home or mini motor home as defined in Section 1‑145.01 of this Code. However, the driver of any such vehicle is prohibited from consuming or having any alcoholic liquor in or about the driver's area. Any evidence of alcoholic consumption by the driver shall be prima facie evidence of such driver's failure to obey this Section. For the purposes of this Section, a limousine is a motor vehicle of the first division with the passenger compartment enclosed by a partition or dividing window used in the for‑hire transportation of passengers and operated by an individual in possession of a valid Illinois driver's license of the appropriate classification pursuant to Section 6‑104 of this Code.

(625 ILCS 5/1‑145.01) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 1‑145.01)
Sec. 1‑145.01. Motor home, mini motor home or van camper. A self‑contained motor vehicle, not used commercially, designed or permanently converted to provide living quarters for recreational, camping or travel use, with direct walk through access to the living quarters from the driver's seat. Such vehicles must include at least four of the following:
a) A cooking facility with an on‑board fuel source;
b) A gas or electric refrigerator;
c) A toilet with exterior evacuation;
d) A heating or air conditioning system with an on‑board power or fuel source separate from the vehicle engine;
e) A potable water supply system that includes at least a sink, a faucet, and a water tank with an exterior service supply connection;
f) A 110‑125 volt electric power supply.
posted by sanko at 3:47 PM on March 28, 2007

There was an article in the San Francisco Bay Guardian a while back about a converted bus that has rock shows in the back. The guy bought it from a retired Oakland cop who said:

"'From driver's seat back, it's perfectly legal to rock out with your cock out' — his exact words. 'You can drink a fifth of JD and whatever,' and he then did this funny little dance."

"It's a surprising tidbit," Benson says. "You don't have to have seat belts and can have open containers. And you can have a regular driver's license. If the bus was any longer, you'd need a commercial license. It's kind of shocking."

So, at least in California, if you have the right vehicle, go for it.
posted by mhm at 3:50 PM on March 28, 2007

Response by poster: So I think I'm getting the jist of it. It's not so much about the open container law, as it is about if there is a 'loophole' exception in the law to allow RV's/motorhomes, and further, the state's definition of an RV (which I find varies a bit.) Thanks everybody!
posted by Sprocket at 4:40 PM on March 28, 2007

I can speak in regards to Washington law.

In my fraternity days (just a couple years ago) we would commonly rent buses for various events. The law, as I understand it, states that you are not allowed to consume alcohol in a vehicle.

HOWEVER, if you purchase a Banquet Permit you are allowed to consume alcohol in a vehicle. Banquet Permits are readily available at any Washington State Liquor Store. They typically run $20 and require a bare amount of information - name, address, reason for permit (something to the effect of 'Celebration of Life' is sufficient), etc. On the permit they will ask for length of use (ex: 8PM 03/27 - 4AM 03/28). Permits can be purchased day of use.

It's really a painless process, 5 minutes, max.

FYI - The employees at the U-Village Liquor Store are very helpful.
posted by ASM at 4:45 PM on March 28, 2007

Oh yeah, IANAL. Don't take my word for it. Research the specifics, consult with legal counsel, etc, etc, etc.
posted by ASM at 4:47 PM on March 28, 2007

Here in Texas open containers are legal in rural areas, but a lot of municipalities prohibit them.
posted by zek at 4:53 PM on March 28, 2007

Keep in mind that alcohol laws can vary by county. If you happen to run across one of the odd dry counties you may get ticketed for having an open container of alcohol regardless.

If I were you I would have a cooler or two among your luggage that you reserve for ditching beer or alcohol you might have open. It shouldn't be too hard to go ahead and throw a few half full beers in a cooler and put a couple of packages of luggage on top of it. Make sure you keep beer in a back pack and try to keep liquor bottles out of sight. See, now you don't even have to worry about it.

Even if you aren't violating the law, if you run into some dick country cop that is not aware of the exception regarding your vehicle, you don't want to go through the trouble of having to deal with it. That and "not in the driver's area" can be easily misinterpreted if said cops happen to suddenly remember seeing an empty beer can underneath your seat, in order to save face.
posted by geoff. at 6:26 PM on March 28, 2007

Haha, we once called the police from the back of a moving RV to ask this very question. They informed us that no, it was not legal.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:29 PM on March 28, 2007

I couldn't find anything specific on California law. I do know that I went on a Mexican Bus tour here in San Francisco where the "tour guide" was walking up and down the aisle with an open bottle of tequila and pouring shots for everyone...
posted by vacapinta at 7:09 PM on March 28, 2007

In the 70's at least, it was legal to drive while drinking, in Louisiana. What a different life-style, where you have a cocktail while driving to the restaurant! (in this case, the driver was a lawyer even). Rationally, they were more concerned with drunk driving than drinking while driving.

rant: It at least used to be the case, in Michigan, that you couldn't have both full and empty bottles in the car. Therefore, everyone who drank on the road was nearly obligated to toss the empties out the window, Stupid! /rant
posted by Goofyy at 9:59 PM on March 28, 2007

They very from county to county. In a county just to the south of where I live, non-drivers in regular cars can still drink.
posted by spaltavian at 7:48 AM on March 29, 2007

Response by poster: Washington State Law does in fact allow alcohol to be open in the back of an Recreational Vehicle.
posted by Sprocket at 10:35 AM on March 29, 2007

Response by poster: For future references...

I've looked up every 'open container' law (or similar), and every states definition of a 'recreational vehicle' from Washington to Michigan on I-90, and found every exception/allowance possible for recreational vehicles and have come to the following conclusion:

It is legal to drink in a bus/RV (with no kitchen/toilet/etc) in the following states:

Washington: YES
Idaho: YES
Montana: YES
South Dakota: NO
Minnesota: NO
Wisonsin: NO
Illinois: NO
Michigan: NO

Keep in mind this is only for a bus registered as an RV. True motorhomes with kitchens and stuff are allowed in more states. County laws may take precedence over state laws in some states as well.

posted by Sprocket at 3:45 PM on March 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

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