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  • Writer's pictureChris Trotter

The Guide to Liquor Laws in Oregon: Open Container & Alcohol Laws

Updated: May 22

The Oregon Liquor Law Guide

Understanding the diverse landscape of state liquor laws can be complicated, especially when considering the unique regulations set forth by Oregon liquor laws. As these laws vary significantly from state to state, understanding the specifics of Oregon's regulations is important for anyone looking to buy, sell, or consume alcohol within its borders. Making an informed decision is not only about adhering to the law; it's about protecting your present and future from the negative impacts that could arise from unintentional violations. 

What is the Open Container Law in Oregon? 

In Oregon, the open container law prohibits the possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages in the passenger area of a vehicle on public highways. This law applies regardless of whether the vehicle is moving or parked. The passenger area is defined as any area designed to seat the driver or passengers while the vehicle is in operation, including a utility or glove compartment. Essentially, any open bottle, can, or other receptacles containing alcoholic beverages cannot be in the passenger compartment. 

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, passengers in certain licensed vehicles like limousines, where the driver is separated from the passengers, may be exempt from this regulation.

Penalties and Fines: 

Violating the open container law in Oregon is considered a Class B traffic violation. The penalties for a Class B traffic violation in Oregon can include:

Fines: The base fine for a Class B traffic violation can vary but often starts around $265. The minimum fine is $135 and the maximum is $1000. 

No Jail Time: Unlike some more severe traffic offenses, a violation of the open container law does not result in jail time as it’s considered a traffic infraction and not a criminal offense. 

It's important to note that these penalties apply specifically to the open container law violation. If an individual is also charged with driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) or other related offenses, the penalties could be significantly more severe.

What’s the Legal Alcohol Limit? 

In Oregon, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers is 0.08%. This means that if you are driving and your BAC is 0.08% or higher within 2 hours of driving, you are considered to be driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII). For commercial drivers, the BAC limit is lower, set at 0.04%. Oregon also has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21, meaning any detectable amount of alcohol in their system is illegal. 

Penalties and Fines: 

Keep in mind that a first time offender may be eligible for the DUII Diversion Program. Otherwise, here's a general overview of what someone will face if convicted of a DUII:

First DUII Conviction: 

Fines: The minimum fine for a first DUII conviction is 

approximately $1,000, but this can increase based on 

circumstances, such as having a BAC significantly above 0.08% or other aggravating factors. 

License Suspension: The minimum length of a driver’s license suspension following a first-time DUI conviction is one year. 

Jail Time: The minimum penalty for a first DUI conviction is 48 hours in jail or 80 hours of community service. The maximum length of jail time for a misdemeanor DUI conviction is 364 days. 

Other: Mandatory participation in a substance abuse treatment program, use of an ignition interlock device, and more.

Second DUII Offense: 

Fines: For a second conviction, the minimum fine is $1,500. 

License Suspension: With a second conviction there is a license suspension of one year if the second offense occurs more than 5 years from the first conviction. The suspension length is three years is the second offense happens within five years of the first conviction. 

Jail Time: The minimum penalty for a second DUI conviction is still 48 hours in jail or 80 hours of community service. Though, the minimum jail time is rarely imposed. A person convicted of their second DUII should anticipate a longer jail sentence. The exact length varies from one court to another. The maximum length of jail time for a misdemeanor DUI conviction is 364 days. 

Other: Mandatory participation in a substance abuse treatment program, use of an ignition interlock device, and more.

Third and Subsequent Offenses: 

Felony or misdemeanor: A third DUII conviction is a felony if the person has been convicted of a DUII at least 2 times within the 10 year period immediately preceding the new offense date. Otherwise, a third DUII is a misdemeanor level offense.

Fines: Fines continue to increase with each subsequent DUII offense. 

License Suspension: A third DUI conviction will result in a lifetime revocation of driving privileges.

Jail Time: A third DUII offense will require additional jail time beyond the mandated 48 hours. Depending on the jurisdiction, your jail time could range from 90 days to 180 days if it is a misdemeanor level DUII. If it is a felony, the mandatory minimum jail sentence is 90 days. Though it is not uncommon for a judge to sentence a person to prison (1 year or more of incarceration) for a felony DUII conviction.

Other: There may be a period of extended probation, a more intense form of drug and alcohol treatment, and electronic monitoring of alcohol consumption. 

It's important to note that these penalties can be affected by various factors, including but not limited to the presence of a minor in the vehicle, the driver's BAC level, and whether the offense resulted in injury or death. Additionally, Oregon law mandates the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) in the vehicles of DUII offenders as part of getting a hardship permit or reinstating driving privileges after a suspension. 

How Late Can You Buy Alcohol? 

Generally, for retail outlets like grocery stores and convenience stores, alcohol can be sold from 7:00 AM to 2:30 AM the following day. This applies to both weekdays and weekends. 

Bars and restaurants are typically allowed to serve alcohol during the same hours as retail sales, from 7:00 AM to 2:30 AM. However, local regulations and individual business licenses may impose further restrictions on these hours. 

Oregon Drinking Age 

The legal drinking age in Oregon is 21 years old. This aligns with federal law, making it illegal for anyone under this age to purchase or publicly possess alcoholic beverages within the state. 

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission states that under Oregon law, it's illegal for anyone other than a parent or legal guardian to give alcohol to a minor or juvenile. A minor is defined as anyone under 21, while a juvenile is under 18. Only parents or legal guardians can legally give alcohol to their own minor children, and this can only happen in a private home and while the parent or guardian is present. This right cannot be passed on to another adult or extended to public places. Additionally, if you allow your home or property to be used for a gathering where minors, other than your own children under your supervision, consume alcohol, you could risk losing your property and face legal action in circuit court. 

Penalties and Fines for Underage Drinking in Oregon

In Oregon, penalties for underage drinking can include fines, diversion programs, and other legal consequences. Specifically, minors caught in possession of alcohol can face: 

Fines: These can vary but may be up to $250 for a first offense. 

Diversion Programs: Instead of fines or criminal charges, minors may be required to attend alcohol education or diversion programs. 

Driver's License Suspension: Underage individuals found in possession of alcohol may have their driver's license suspended for up to one year for a first offense and potentially longer for subsequent offenses. 

Community Service: Courts may also order community service as part of the penalty for underage drinking. 

The Guide to Liquor Laws in Oregon Conclusion 

Oregon's alcohol laws are designed with the intent to promote safety and responsible drinking among its residents. From setting the legal drinking age at 21 to enforcing strict DUII regulations, the state takes a firm stance on preventing underage drinking and impaired driving. 

If you find yourself navigating the complexities of a DUII charge in Oregon, Chris Trotter at Trotter Law is equipped to provide the assistance you need. With a wealth of experience in handling DUI convictions, our team has successfully assisted many individuals, securing favorable outcomes. If you need a Medford DUI attorney or southern Oregon, we recommend Kollie Law.

*Nothing herein constitutes legal advice. You should obtain independent legal counsel regarding your specific factual situation.

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