Chances are good that anyone reading this is already aware of some of the more standard laws regarding drinking alcohol while driving. For example, it’s illegal in 43 states, including Arizona, for a driver to be in possession of an open container of alcohol while they are in control of a motor vehicle. In most states, this restriction also logically extends to anyone within the passenger compartment of the car as well. This means anyone in the front or back seat, but also includes the storage of any previously-opened bottles of alcohol in the glove compartment or other unlocked storage areas
But do these laws also apply to non-alcoholic beverages? That might seem like a silly question, but there is a distinction that should be pointed out here. There actually is a difference between a beverage that is “non-alcoholic” and one that is “alcohol-free”.
Non-alcoholic beer has been around for a very long time, but became popularized in a modern sense – unsurprisingly – after the Volstead Act was put into effect in 1919. Better known simply as Prohibition, the Volstead Act outlawed the sale of any alcohol with an alcohol by volume (ABV) percentage over 0.5 percent. It was at this point that many entrepreneurial brewers dialed down the ABV percentage of their brew to the new maximum alcohol allowance and continued to sell this version throughout the next thirteen years that Prohibition was in place.
After the repeal of Prohibition, and probably mostly because we are creatures of habit, the 0.5% ABV percentage has mostly stuck as the cutoff point for what is considered a “non-alcoholic” beverage – even though, technically, there’s still alcohol in it. Just not very much.
How does Arizona view non-alcoholic beer?
The laws regarding the way “non-alcoholic” beers are viewed in a legal sense, including restrictions on the places they can be sold, who they can be sold to and whether or not you can drive while having one vary widely on a state level. Arizona’s view on the matter can be found in Title 4-101.32 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, which states that a “spirituous liquor” is one that contains more than the 0.5 percent ABV.
This means that yes, technically – it is not illegal for you or your passengers to have a non-alcoholic beer while you drive your car. However, this is still a risky gamble to take in a legal sense. The consumption of any amount of alcohol, even the low 0.5 percent ABV of non-alcoholic beer, can affect or impair a driver’s ability behind the wheel and this will put you in violation of the Revised Statutes of Arizona which can result in fines and further possible penalties. Not exactly an enticing trade-off, is it?
Driving while impaired by any substance is never safe and is always discouraged. In the event that you have been charged with DUI that you feel was unwarranted in some way, let us know. It might be in your best interest to seek the advice of someone experienced in this area of the law.