New Hampshire’s open container law makes it illegal to possess drugs and open containers of alcohol in vehicles. The prohibition on possessing open containers of alcohol applies to both, drivers and passengers. However, the law prohibiting possession of drugs in vehicles applies only to drivers. This article provides an overview of New Hampshire’s open container law, exceptions to the law, and the penalties for possessing open containers and drugs in vehicles.
It’s unlawful for drivers and passengers to transport, carry, possess, or have any liquor or alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a motor vehicle that’s located on any way, except in the original container with an unbroken seal. Passengers are further prohibited from possessing an open container when the vehicle is located in an area primarily used for public parking.
Passenger area. The “passenger area” doesn’t include the area of a motor vehicle that’s been designed or modified for overnight accommodations or living quarters.
Way. A “way” includes any:
Passengers in vehicles for hire. Passengers can lawfully transport, carry, possess, and have liquor or beverages in chartered buses, taxis, and limousines for hire.
However, the driver of such a vehicle is prohibited from having any liquor or beverage in the driver’s area.
Areas within a vehicle. Open containers of alcohol can be lawfully transported in the trunk of a vehicle if the containers are “securely capped.” If the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the open container must be stored in a compartment or the area of the vehicle that is the least accessible to the driver.
Opened table wine. A food service licensed to sell wine can allow customers who have purchased a full course meal and consumed part of a bottle of table wine to take the partially consumed bottle home. However, the customer cannot be intoxicated. And the bottle of wine must be securely sealed, bagged, and placed in the trunk of the vehicle. If the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the opened bottle of wine must be stored in a compartment or the area of the vehicle that’s the least accessible to the driver.
A person who violates New Hampshire’s open container law commits a violation and is subject to a $150 fine. In addition to the fine, a driver who’s convicted of an open container violation may face a license suspension for 60 days for a first offense. For a second or subsequent offense, the driver’s license suspension can be up to one year.
It’s unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle on any way while knowingly possessing a controlled drug or having the drug in any part of the vehicle. However, a driver can lawfully possess marijuana and hashish.
A person who possesses drugs in a vehicle commits a misdemeanor. Upon a conviction, the offender’s license will be revoked for at least 60 days and up to two years.
Drivers who are under the age of 21 years are prohibited from transporting liquor or alcoholic beverages in any part of a vehicle, unless accompanied by a parent, guardian, or a spouse who is at least 21 years old. These underage drivers can also legally transport liquor and beverages if within the scope of their employment.
An underage driver who’s convicted of transporting liquor or alcoholic beverages in a vehicle may face a 60-day driver’s license suspension.