Water bottles make it easy to carry a chilled beverage wherever you go. While these containers were designed to hold water, not everyone who carries one has that intention. Since their invention, water bottles have become a tried-and-true method for some people to surreptitiously carry alcohol.
Drinking alcohol from a water bottle is not necessarily illegal. But there are some situations in which having a water bottle full of liquor could have tricky legal consequences. For example, if a cop were to pull over your car and find a water bottle full of vodka, you could be at risk of an open container charge. So, what are the circumstances in which a cop can search your water bottle?
In a vehicle
Let’s return to the scenario in which you have a water bottle full of vodka in your car. The Fourth Amendment prevents law enforcement officers from unreasonable search and seizures in a vehicle. To search your car without a warrant, police officers must arrest you or have probable cause to believe that you are committing a crime.
Your location plays a big factor in the legality of a cop’s search and seizure. If you are in a public space, you have less expectation of privacy than when you are in your home. This does not mean that police officers can search the water bottles of everyone in a public space for any reason they wish. A police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that you are committing a crime before searching your possessions. There are a few exceptions to this rule: Entering a semi-public event like a concert, sporting event or festival gives law enforcement implicit consent to search your belongings.