In New York, it’s illegal to drink or possess open containers of alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles and public places. This is referred to as an open container law. New York is tough on alcohol-related driving offenses and, if you find yourself with an open container citation, you may be facing more than just a court date.

Most New Yorkers already know that drinking and driving over the limit is a crime. But it’s important to remember that the law extends to even just the presence of open alcohol in the vehicle, with respect to both the driver and passengers in the car. Even if the driver of the vehicle is sober, open container law will come into effect if anyone in the car is drinking in general. Even if the car is not in motion, it’s still illegal to have an open container of alcohol inside.

An open container charge is usually a non-criminal citation that results in a court appearance. But if you’re hit with other citations in the same instance, such as public intoxication or assault, the consequences you’d normally face may become more severe.

Are There Any Exceptions To New York’s Open Container Law?

Yes, there are some unique exceptions to New York’s open container law. Drinking on a public road is illegal, but there are exceptions for vehicles that are designed to transport ten or more people – such as limousines, “party buses,” and similar operations. Occupants of passenger vehicles like cars and trucks are barred from drinking on the road, but passengers in these specialty vehicles are not. Still, of course, the driver of the specialty vehicle must be sober at all times.

Additionally, empty containers that previously contained alcohol inside aren’t illegal either. The container must have alcohol inside at the present moment, and must be in the driver or passenger’s possession when the officer approaches. For example, a garbage bag of empty cans or a can crushed on the floor will not be considered an open container, but it’s still never a good idea to have alcohol containers in your vehicle for any reason, even if it’s just garbage. An officer will use their discretion every time on a case-by-case basis.

An experienced New York criminal defense attorney can fight back against an unfair open container citation if you’ve been charged with one. The law can quickly become confusing and, without the guidance of an attorney, you may be at a disadvantage, especially if you’ve been hit with multiple violations at once. If you drive in this state with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level at or above 0.08 percent, you may be charged with a “standard” DWI, but added citations atop this charge may make the penalties you face much worse.

What Are The Consequences Of Driving With An Open Container?

If you’re pulled over for any reason and a police officer suspects you may have been driving under the influence, they will conduct a field sobriety test. Even if you were pulled over for a reason other than your driving, such as a faulty brake light, the police officer has every right to question your sobriety. Even if a police officer does not smell alcohol or observe any open containers of alcohol in the vehicle, they are permitted to conduct a sobriety test if they find it necessary. The sobriety test will help the police officer decide your level of impairment and determine what to do next.

Drivers convicted of violating New York’s open container law face a maximum fine of $150 for a first offense. For repeat offenders, the cost is higher. Receiving a second open container citation within 18 months of the first is accompanied by a fine of up to $300. A third offense can carry a fine of up to $450.

Schedule A Free Consultation With Nassau County DWI Attorney Gianni Karmily

If you are convicted of an alcohol-related offense, you can face serious penalties, including jail time, fines, and the loss of your driving privileges. The penalties will vary depending on several factors, including the type of offense and your prior criminal record. An open container citation, especially on top of other alcohol-related offenses, can carry serious penalties.

It’s possible to fight back against these charges with the help of a qualified DWI attorney. Gianni Karmily can carefully analyze the factors of your case and find the best course of action for securing your justice faster.

Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with the Law Firm of Gianni Karmily as soon as possible after receiving an open container citation.