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10 FAQ’s about the open container law

Think twice before you or passengers in your vehicle re-cork that bottle of wine for the road — or you may face an open container violation.

Read on to learn more about frequently asked questions concerning New Jersey’s open container law.

What is the open container law?

Open container laws were established across the country in an effort to reduce drunk driving. The conditions of open container laws can vary from state to state, but the general function of the law is to impose penalties to drivers who possess an open container of alcohol while operating a vehicle.

Does a resealed container count as “open”?

Yes, according with the law, an "unsealed" container means either that the original seal is broken or the container is open, such as a glass or cup.

Can I be charged if the vehicle is not running?

No, you may not be charged with an open container violation if the vehicle is stopped and the engine is not running.

Will the driver face a violation for passengers who possess an open container?

Yes, both the driver and the offending passenger may be cited for an open container violation if only the passenger is in possession of an open container.

Are taxicabs and Ubers an exception?

Yes, the law makes exceptions for certain types of vehicles. Some of the vehicles that are exceptions to the open container law include:

  • Transportation vehicles for hire, such as taxicab services
  • Hotel buses used only to transport guests to or from common carrier stations, such as airports or trains.
  • Limousines
  • Vehicles used in a "ridesharing" arrangement, such as Uber or Lyft
  • Living quarters of a motorhome

What if the bottle is in the trunk?

The open container law maintains that an open container cannot be in any area that is within reach or readily accessible to the driver or a passenger while in their seating positions, including the glove compartment and accessible storage areas.

If the contents of the trunk of the vehicle are not accessible to anyone in the vehicle, an “open” bottle may be stored there legally. Vehicles without trunks may store an open container behind the last upright seat or in another area not occupied by the driver or passengers.

What if there is only a small amount left?

The open container law applies to any amount or type of liquor in an unsealed container, including beer, wine, and spirits.

Will this offense be on my driving record?

Yes, the presence of this conviction will be on your driving record. This is likely to increase your insurance rates.

What are the penalties?

  • First offense — $200 fine
  • Second offense — $250 or 10 days community service
  • Third and fourth offenses: increased fines and penalties
  • Possible hike in insurance rate

Can I contest an open container law citation?

If you have been charged with an open container violation, you may be able to fight the charge in court.

Contact a DUI or criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. A knowledgeable lawyer can help you review the case and point out important variables, such as whether the arresting police officer followed the law, whether your conduct constituted the violation and more.

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Morristown, NJ 07960

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