My daughter and her friends are organizing a limo for their prom night so they can travel together, which seems like a good idea, but I'm concerned because I've heard some limo companies allow drinking. What does the law say? – Heidi in Scarborough, Ont.
We know that drinking and driving is illegal, but what about consuming alcohol when you're riding in the back of a limousine?
"There is no alcohol allowed in any of our limos because, by Ontario law, there is no alcohol allowed while a limo is on the road. I don't know about anyone else, but we don't allow any smoking or drinking in our limos," says a manager at Toronto Limo Rentals.
"For weddings, we do provide a bottle of champagne to the party after the wedding, but we don't allow anybody to drink while the limo is on the road. For a prom, we don't allow anyone to bring any drinks in the limo at all, or provide glassware. It's risky – if the cops stop the limo, the passengers will get a ticket and so will the company. It's against the law no matter what age you are."
Each province and territory has its own liquor control laws, which restrict access to alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle.
Section 32(1) of Ontario's Liquor Licence Act (LLA) states that no one is permitted to drive or have control of a motor vehicle while there is opened and readily available liquor in the vehicle. The LLA falls under the purview of the Ministry of the Attorney General, and questions about the enforcement of this section are referred to the police.
So what about limousines with a partition between the driver and passengers?
"Technically, it still remains a motor vehicle, no matter how you cut it. So when you look at the designation under 32(1) of the Liquor Licence Act, it designates a car, moving or not, and says no you can't do it," says Constable Clint Stibbe, of the Toronto Police Service.
Sealed alcohol can, of course, be transported in a vehicle. "I could move a bottle of liquor around for the rest of my life in the back of a car, but there can't be any consumption," says Stibbe. "If the limo companies are stocking it and knowingly have it on board where somebody is using it they're in trouble. Whether or not the car is in motion, you cannot consume alcohol in that vehicle. As long as it's closed it can be transported in the vehicle, but it cannot be opened or consumed; once that occurs that's where the offence occurs."
In the case of your daughter and her friends who are celebrating prom, chances are they haven't yet reached Ontario's legal drinking age of 19.
"You can be 18 and work in a bar as a server, but that's the only exception. Otherwise, under the age of 19, you can't have alcohol, consume it, attempt to purchase it, or anything," says Stibbe.
When it comes to the consumption of alcohol in motor vehicles, as well as underage drinking, the law is clear. For peace of mind, contact the limo rental company, and discuss your concerns with them and your daughter. Then you can rest assured that she and her friends have a safe, alcohol-free ride home.
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