Indiana lawmakers reform open container law - Purdue Exponent: City & State

Indiana lawmakers reform open container law

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Posted: Monday, July 1, 2013 10:00 am

Drivers of certain vehicles can have open containers of alcohol in the vehicle without repercussions. That has changed.

Indiana’s open container law dictates that no container of alcohol with a broken seal may be in a passenger area of a vehicle, a law that some students are unaware of, according to Mike Boesch, a detective for the Purdue Police Department.

“A lot of students think it’s just the driver (that can’t have alcohol),” Boesch said.

John Goetz, sergeant for the Purdue Police Department, said alcohol can be transported, as long as it’s not anywhere a person normally sits.

“If you put it in the trunk, that’s fine,” Goetz said. “(Otherwise) it’s a class C infraction, (which is) like a speeding citation.”

The old law does not apply to certain vehicles (such as tour buses, limousines or RVs). The current law gives two exceptions – vehicles transporting people for compensation and vehicles used as living quarters. However, that is about to change.

The amended law, co-authored by State Rep. Ben Smaltz (R–Auburn), will remove those exceptions, effective today. The exceptions originally were intended to be customers of limousines and those living in RVs, but the loophole allows drivers of those vehicles to consume alcohol.

“It was never intended that (the drivers) would be allowed to have an open container, but (the excepted) vehicles technically don’t have a driver compartment,” Smaltz said. “The driver sits in the passenger compartment.”

The amended law will specify that drivers of said vehicles may not consume alcohol while driving. Passengers of limousines or RVs may consume alcohol as long as they are not in the driver compartment, which generally means behind the driver’s seat. Otherwise, the alcohol must be in a fixed center console that is locked.

Smaltz said he is confident any exploitation of the loophole would not have held up in court, but the federal government is forcing them to make the change.

“Even though in Indiana we enforced (the law) and found it to be legally valid ... the federal government had a different interpretation,” Smaltz said.

Smaltz said closing the loophole will create better and more secure roads.

“There’s no point in not having rules that will lead us to good outcomes,” Smaltz said.

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