Home >>

Open Container Law in New Jersey

Open Container Law in New Jersey

You likely know driving while intoxicated is illegal in New Jersey. However, you may be less clear about the rules for transporting alcohol in the Garden State. New Jersey’s open container law prohibits everyone, including passengers, from having an unsealed container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. All alcoholic beverages must be closed as originally packaged. This rule also applies to containers of cannabis.

Drivers must understand the open container law, even if they are not

the ones partaking, to avoid a citation. If you have been charged for driving with an unsealed container, our law firm can help. Contact The Law Office of Steven Ellman to speak to a proven traffic violation and DUI attorney in New Jersey.

Understanding New Jersey Open Container Laws

New Jersey law defines an open container as any vessel to carry alcohol, such as a can, bottle, or cup. “Unsealed” means that the original seal is broken. Say you have a twist-off bottle of wine or beer, and the seal is cracked. That would be considered an open container, even if the lid is closed at the time of a traffic stop.

An empty bottle may be considered an open container if it’s cold or has condensation on the bottle, suggesting it may recently have been consumed. If the driver gets stopped on suspicion of drunk driving with an empty bottle of alcohol in the cabin, then a prosecutor could use the presence of that bottle against them in a DUI legal case in New Jersey.

Passengers aren’t exempt from the open container restrictions (with a few limited exceptions). New Jersey prohibits anyone in a moving vehicle from possessing or drinking from an open container of alcohol. So, your friend in the backseat sipping hard cider could earn themselves and you an open container citation if you get pulled over.

Consequences of Violating Open Container Laws

The penalties for violating the open container law in New Jersey are:

  • First offense: $200 fine
  • Second offense: $250 fine or 10 days of community service

Third and subsequent offenses may result in higher fines, longer community service, or other penalties. If it’s your first open container offense, you may be able to retain your license, but second and repeated offenders may see their licenses suspended or even revoked.

Although an open container citation won’t automatically lead to a DUI or DWI charge, a police officer who sees an open container may have a reasonable belief of intoxication and request a field sobriety test or breathalyzer test. There are serious penalties for refusing these tests, so you may need help from a New Jersey DWI lawyer if you did.

Defense Strategies for Open Container Offenses

State judges and prosecutors take a hard line against those charged with open container and DUI violations. However, New Jersey DWI lawyers know how to investigate these cases and identify the most appropriate strategy to support their clients’ defenses. Common defenses in open container law cases may include:

  • Proving that the beverage in question was non-alcoholic
  • Contesting the legality of the search of your motor vehicle – did the police officer have probable cause to search?
  • Showing that the container was in the trunk or other legally exempt area of the vehicle
  • Noting that your vehicle is one of those that are an exception to the open container law, like a limo, party bus, or RV
  • Establishing that you were unaware of the open container’s presence in the vehicle

Previous infractions on your driving record may impact how the court sees your case, so consulting a defense attorney can help you understand the best potential outcomes based on your unique situation.

What to Do If You’ve Been Charged With an Open Container Violation

An open container charge in New Jersey counts as a traffic citation, not a criminal offense. However, seeking legal representation as soon as possible is always best. You may think you’re just facing a fine or points on your license, but you may also end up charged with a DUI or DWI. And because they are traffic offenses, open-container violations are also not subject to expungement like many disorderly persons and even indictable offenses are. A DUI conviction could remain on your driving record permanently.

An attorney can help you understand your citation or charge and explain what happens next, guiding you through the legal process. They know the law, applicable exceptions, and the open container and DWI defense strategies that might help you beat the charges or lessen your penalties.

How The Law Office of Steven Ellman Can Help

The consequences of an open-container violation can be substantial. If you rely on a driver’s license for work and/or hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL), an open container charge could affect your livelihood. Even without a DWI charge or conviction, just one open container violation could lead to a CDL license suspension.

Charged With an Open Container Violation? Contact The Law Office of Steven Ellman Today

Are you worried about the implications of an open-container violation or other intoxication-related traffic offense? A trial-tested DUI attorney from The Law Office of Steven Ellman can help mitigate the penalties you face by building a solid case in your defense.

Steven Ellman has a strong reputation throughout New Jersey as a DUI/ DWI lawyer who aggressively fights for his clients’ rights. He is among the Top 10 elite New Jersey defense attorneys and has successfully defended thousands of clients in various traffic violation and DUI cases.

We take your rights seriously and vigorously protect them against aggressive prosecutors. Contact us today to learn how we can help in a free consultation with a skilled DUI lawyer.

Tell Us About Your Case


Open Container Law in New Jersey