Whether you're camping out, partying before a football game, or just relaxing with friends, tailgate parties are an iconic part of the American lifestyle. But how does this cherished American pastime jive with DUI (driving under the influence), open container, and public intoxication laws?
This article outlines when and where tailgate parties are permitted and some tips for keeping things lawful.
If you're planning to have alcohol at a tailgate party, it's a good idea to check whether local laws allow for the open consumption of alcohol.
Many states, like Indiana and Texas, have no laws prohibiting alcohol consumption in public areas. So if you're in one of these states, drinking alcohol in public parks, sidewalks, parking lots, and the like shouldn't be a problem.
However, some states, such as Kansas, prohibit any consumption of alcohol outside of a privately owned business or residence. In these states, drinking alcohol on the street, in a public park, or on the sidewalk is expressly prohibited. Some towns, cities, and municipalities also have ordinances that restrict drinking in public.
A few states take a middle-ground approach to drinking in public. These states generally prohibit open alcohol consumption on streets, sidewalks, and public roadways but allow alcohol consumption in parks and parking lots.
State laws restricting the public consumption of alcohol often contain exceptions for special events and entertainment districts. Some notable examples of public consumption exceptions include:
Although it might seem obvious, it's worth noting that public alcohol consumption restrictions generally don't apply to private property. So it's normally okay to have tailgate parties and consume alcohol on private properties such as stadium parking lots (so long as the private owners don't have restrictions).
Most states prohibit open alcohol containers in vehicles. In some states, open container prohibitions apply even if the car is parked on a street.
However, open container laws generally apply to the passenger areas of vehicles to which the passengers or driver would have access while the vehicle is in operation. So, as long as no one is inside the vehicle with alcohol, a tailgate party probably won't lead to anyone getting an open container ticket.
Of course, the perfect tailgate party can also be ruined by overindulgence. Aside from the social faux pas, public intoxication is illegal.
State definitions vary but, generally, a person is considered intoxicated if he or she is harassing or annoying others, breaching the peace, or endangering the safety of others. Officers are allowed to enforce these laws on any property open to the public including parks, college campuses, and some parking lots.
While many colleges have special rules related to the open consumption of alcohol and tailgate events, underage drinking is never allowed. Additionally, adults that provide alcohol to minors can face criminal charges.
Generally, to be convicted of a DUI, a person must either be in the driver's seat or have access to the vehicle controls. In most states, actual driving isn't required for a DUI conviction.
However, so long as everyone remains outside of the vehicle during tailgate parties, there probably isn't much risk of being cited for a DUI offense.