Mississippi is the only state in the country to allow an open container of alcohol to be present while driving. Under 66-11-30 of Mississippi’s penal code a person in considered driving under the influence if their blood alcohol concentration is above 0.08, however there is no law concerning drinking while driving. Being pulled over by law enforcement with an open beer will prompt a breathalyzer test but if your blood alcohol concentration is within legal limits you have not broken any laws. While the idea of having a beer on the way home from work may sound appealing there are a few restrictions to keep in mind while driving in Mississippi.
Although the state of Mississippi has no law about open containers in vehicles, many counties and cities in the state have adopted their own laws concerning open containers of alcohol. Complicating the matter further, there are also dry counties in Mississippi, some which contain cities that allow consumption of alcohol within their limits. Under 67-3-13 of Mississippi penal law, possessing alcohol in a dry county can result in up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $500, whether you were drinking it or not.
To draw a comparison, driving under the influence carries a penalty of up to 48 hours in jail with a fine up to $1000 (along with a driver’s license suspension of 90 days) and possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana while driving is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1000. Considering alcohol could very well be legal the next county over seems strange that it carries the same penalties for illegal drug possession and a punishment stricter than driving under the influence.
Although it is legal, is it worth it? Alcohol impairs motor skills, reaction time and decision making. Driving impaired puts everyone on the road at risk, and a police officer is not going to enjoy hearing “I’ve only had one beer.” One beer may not be enough to make a driver legally intoxicated but there is a very fine line between acceptable and illegal. Driving under the influence in Mississippi carries a fine of up to $1000, jail time up to 48 hours and a driver’s license suspension of 90 days.
Mississippi law already prohibits establishments that sell alcohol for on premises consumption (such as a bar) from selling “to go” drinks; is there really a difference between that buying beers for the road from a gas station or filling a flask with liquor?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2014 31% of the total roadway fatalities in the United States involved a driver with at least 0.08 blood alcohol concentration. If your blood alcohol concentration is more than 0.08 please refrain from driving. It is illegal in every state, carries serious penalties and is dangerous for yourself and other drivers. Stay informed and stay safe.