Ask a Trooper: Transporting beer cans clearly for recycling is not 'open container'

Questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota may be sent to Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow at 1000 Highway 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56560. You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or email him at

Close-up of Minnesota State Patrol trooper's squad vehicle
Minnesota State Patrol trooper's vehicle
Contributed / Minnesota State Patrol

Question: Can you get an open container violation if you are on your way to a recycling center with empty bottles, cans, plastics, etc.? This assumes that some of the contents being recycled are opened/ empty beer, wine and liquor containers? I am assuming that the driver has not been consuming any alcohol but simply going to recycle the cans, bottles and plastic containers?

Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow
Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow

Answer: The “open bottle law” states "possession" means either that the person had actual possession of the bottle or receptacle or that the person consciously exercised control over the bottle or receptacle.

From my experience and common sense, it’s pretty obvious if bottles, cans or other containers in a box or bag are intended for recycling and are not a violation. If a person says they were planning to recycle the half empty can of beer sitting in the center console once they finish it — that’s a different story.

If you are simply transporting a half empty bottle of wine or liquor, keep it in the vehicle’s trunk, if equipped. If you don’t have a trunk, cargo area, pickup box, etc., place the container in another area not normally occupied by the driver and passengers. Be aware that a utility compartment (center console) or glove compartment is considered within the area occupied by the driver and passengers.

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