Iowa Court of Appeals: Drinking In Car OK If Parked On Private Lot

Drinking in a parked car, as long as it is on private property, is OK per the Iowa Court of Appeals ruling on Wednesday.

The three judge panel ordered that open container laws only apply to roads or lots that are “open to the use of the public, as a matter of right, for purposes of vehicular traffic,” Chief Judge David Danilson wrote in the Wednesday ruling.

The public has no right to use a private lot, even if they have the implied permission of the owner, he wrote.

“The statute prohibiting open containers was inapplicable to Brown, and the officers did not have probable cause to search the vehicle,” Danilson ordered. “Without probable cause … the officers’ warrantless search was unreasonable.”

To be clear, a person can still be arrested for operating while intoxicated whether that person is on private or public property and the definition of “operating” is not always clear.

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