Michael A. Ferraro, Esq., P.C.
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Do You Understand New York’s “Open Container” Laws?

On Behalf of | May 7, 2023 | DWI defense |

Most New Yorkers are aware that driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense with severe legal and personal consequences. But did you know you having alcohol in your vehicle (even if you are not drinking it) can also land you in trouble?

Even if you are not drinking, New York’s “Open Container” law prohibits having an open container of alcoholic beverage in a vehicle even if the car is not in motion. But what exactly does this mean?

Understanding “Open Container” laws

“Open Container” laws are designed to promote public safety by prohibiting the possession of alcoholic beverages or other intoxicants in an open container in public areas and in motor vehicles. Per these laws, open containers refer to any of the following:

  • Alcohol or wine bottles with removed seals 
  • Alcoholic beverage in an open cup, glass, tumbler or bottle

Whereas “Open Container” charges are generally non-criminal, a citation can still lead to serious consequences. A conviction for an “Open Container” violation in New York could attract a fine as well as points on your record. 

Exceptions to New York’s “Open Container” laws

Yes, there are a few exceptions to New York’s “Open Container” laws. First, the container in question must contain alcohol at the time of the stop. Thus, you may not be deemed to be violating the law if you are transporting a crate of empty alcohol bottles in your car. Of course, each case is unique and the police will use their discretion should they find an empty alcohol can in your car. 

Secondly, while passengers cannot consume alcohol or possess open containers in the car, this law does not apply when you are operating a commercial vehicle like Uber or a taxi. The idea is as a taxi driver, you are not expected to control what your customers do while in your car. 

Being charged with any alcohol-related offense can be serious. Learning more about New York’s “Open Container” laws can help you safeguard your rights and interests if you are charged with this type of violation.