Correct, me if I’m wrong, but in most places in the US, it’s illegal to drink alcohol while walking down the street, on the subway, possibly in the park, etc. Yet people do–not infrequently do I see people drinking big 16 oz. cans of beer, or handles of hard liquor, “concealed” in a brown paper bag. Are you less likely to get cited by a police officer if the label is concealed? Anyone who sees you drinking something out of a brown paper bag knows it’s beer or liquor, so why the half-assed concealment?
Any cop worth their salary knows that a brown bag equals open container. People just think they can get away with it if the label is somehow concealed. Basic urban legend.
I’ve always just thought of it as part of the aesthtic appeal.
ETA: it was common practice in my college town, where drinking on the street was entirely legal (then).
No doubt about that. A 40 of St. Ives malt liquor just doesn’t taste the same without the bag.
I once got waylaid by a cop for drinking from a brown bag. He left me alone when I revealed that it was a Snapple. I didn’t think anything of it at the time – the shopkeeper just gave me the bottle in a brown bag and it was comfortable to hold the paper instead of the cold glass.
But now I know that all I have to do to get away with the full Drunken Bum Experience is fill a Snapple bottle with rum, stick it in a bag and be on my merry way!
'Tis right. The paper bag just makes the experience more real and authentic. St. Ides just doesn’t taste the same when served by upper middle class suburbanites, poured into a glass.
The last ounce supposedly tastes the best, but I never experienced it. It’s always poured on the ground for my dead homies.
What are you basing this on? As a younger person drinking from beer in a bottle in a brown paper bag; I liked the bag because my hand didn’t get as cold, and I assumed it therefore kept the beer a little colder longer.
I never thought I’d get away with anything, and if I saw a cop I would hide it.
I’m suprised no one has mentioned how classy it is.
Plus, if you drink out of a paper bag, you can convince everyone that you’re just the town drunk, so you don’t have to explain your unconventional taste in romance.
Where does probably cause enter into it? Even though “any cop worth their salary knows that a brown bag equals open container,” does that give him the right to inspect the contents without your permission, given some probable cause? I’d always assumed that was the purpose of the brown bag. Sure, you can’t see the label, but neither can the cop, and without probable cause he can’t search the bag, and thus is incapable of citing you on an open container violation.
Maybe, is it that “brown bag” now equals “probable cause”?
It’s St. Ides! Get his name right, for Christ’s sake! He was canonized for a reason!
I’m not sure how many other (if any) states have similar laws, but if you buy a six-pack or a 40 in Louisiana, you have to have it concealed in an opaque bag, even if the containers are closed. More than once when living there, I tried to just walk out of the store with a bottle or can of beer, only to have the person working the register insist on the bag.
Pretty much. No cop and no judge is going to be stopped by the “couldn’t see the label, therefore can’t search” argument.
“In my experience as an officer, the suspect exhibited the characteristics of a drunk. I also smelled alcohol around his person.” So much for the brown bag.
If they want to tag you, they will. The bag just gives them an excuse not to, as long as you don’t cause trouble.
HBO’s The Wire addressed this once. At least from a Baltimore perspective. It seems politicians wanted to crack down on drinking in public. Seems sitting on your front step having a beer in the summer was a big thing in Baltimore. Some politicians didn’t like it and wanted the police to crack down on it. The police hated it. They wanted to do some real police work instead of busting on people that weren’t bothering anyone. So they reached an understanding with the citizens of Baltimore. As long as it was discreet, the police would let them be. That’s how the paper bag was born. It gave cops enough reason to look the other way.
Louisiana, and especially New Orleans, is a special case in the U.S. You can drink on the streets freely. I never did get the laws straight when I lived there but it didn’t really matter, It was the last place in the nation to have an 18 year old drinking age. We were told that the only difference between us and those 21 years or older was that we had to hide the labels if we drank in public as minors and that often meant a tattered paper bag for showmanship. It was encouraged for people to drink out of cups but it becomes a little ridiculous fast when hoards of tourists are drinking from Pat O’Briens glasses and Tropical Isle cups in front of everyone are walking all over the French Quarter and everywhere else.
I am only 34 and yet I still remember as a teenager when the term “drinking and driving” didn’t apply literally in Louisiana. You could be pulled over by a cop and sip a beer from the driver’s seat with a 12 pack next to you while the officer explained that a tail-light was out. That only changed in the mid 90’s.
Do you know they make that shit in mint-flavor? Apparantly so your breath smells fresh after you puke.
drinking from a brown paper bag is not good as it makes the bag wet and soggy
An officer doesn’t have to have “probable cause” to stop you for investigation. To comply with Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968), all the officer needs is “reasonable suspicion” that you have violated, are violating, or are about to violate a law. Once they have you stopped, they can use the information they gather during the stop to achieve the probable cause needed to either arrest you (allowing the search), or search the bag. Indeed, I’m not going to look to be certain, but I’d suspect that the part of Terry that allows for a brief “pat down” search of your clothing for weapons (upon reasonable suspicion you might be armed) would possibly allow for an inspection of the bag to see if it had a weapon in the opinion of some courts.
So, no, the brown bag isn’t helping you at all. Officer on stand: “I formed the opinion that the defendant was possibly violating the open container law because in my expert opinion as a police officer, it is common for people who are attempting to drink in public from an open container to use a brown bag to hide the container from view.” End of story.
I agree that if the cop wants to bust you, he probably can. And I also agree that a brown paper bag lets the cops ignore you if they choose to, which they probably will if you aren’t making trouble.