After a party, your friends want to head home for the night. Your friend, who hasn’t been drinking, offers to give you and a couple of other people a ride home. You haven’t finished your drink yet, but you don’t want to miss the ride that’s offered. Instead of dumping out the rest of the drink, you bring it with you.

Many wouldn’t think twice about this. They’re being safe. They aren’t driving, so why would they get in trouble? Although it seems harmless, having an open container could lead to a big fine if the police pull over the driver.

Open container law

All but 11 states take part in an open container law. New Jersey law prohibits any possession of an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle. It is considered an open container if:

  • The seal on the beverage is broken or
  • The beverage has been poured into another container

This applies to everyone in the vehicle, even those who are not driving. If the police presume a person in the vehicle has an open container, a citation can be given to any passengers.

Exceptions to the rule

There are a few exceptions to this law. In New Jersey, passengers in limousines and buses can possess and consume alcohol while they are being driven. Furthermore, alcohol in the living quarters of a motorhome is exempt as long as the motorhome is not in operation.

If you have unsealed alcohol in your vehicle or motorhome, the safest place to put it is in the trunk or anywhere out of reach from everyone in the vehicle. If the alcohol is out of reach from the driver and the passengers, an open container citation cannot be issued.

Fines

If you receive an open container citation, you will have to pay a $200 fine for your first offense. Typically, jail time is not required. If you have more than one conviction, you must pay a fine of $250 or give ten days of community service. Although this may not seem too harsh, a police officer can issue you a separate conviction for consuming alcohol in the car. With these two convictions, you could end up paying much more than it’s worth.

Having an open container in the car can also lead to a big distraction for the driver. It can become very dangerous very fast. New Jersey law wants to prevent as many accidents as possible and keep everyone on the road safe. So, if for any reason you have a drink in your hand, think twice about bringing it in the car.

Get An Experienced Attorney In Your Corner

If you or anyone you know has been issued a citation for an open container or any other traffic violations, contact The Law Offices of Anthony N. Palumbo for a free initial consultation. Call us at 908-316-8671 or complete our online contact form.