New Jersey’s Open Container Laws, Penalties, and Consequences

Learn about the penalties for an open container conviction in New Jersey.

As in other states, New Jersey has a law that prohibits open containers of alcohol in vehicles. This article covers the basics of New Jersey's open container law and the penalties of getting an open container ticket.

What Does New Jersey's Open Container Law Prohibit?

Unlike the laws of most other states, New Jersey's open container law contains restrictions on possessing open containers and the consumption of alcohol in vehicles.

New Jersey's Restriction on Possessing Open Alcohol Containers in Cars

New Jersey law prohibits any person from possessing an alcoholic beverage (generally, drinks with at least .5% alcohol) in a vehicle if:

  • the beverage's original seal is broken, or
  • the beverage is in a container such as a glass or cup.

There are some exceptions to this rule that are discussed below.

New Jersey's Restriction on Consuming Alcohol in a Vehicle

New Jersey law also prohibits any person from consuming an alcoholic beverage while inside a vehicle that's being operated. A person is presumed to have consumed alcohol if:

  • an open container is located in the passenger compartment
  • the contents of the container have been partially removed, and
  • the person's physical appearance or conduct is consistent with having consumed alcohol.

The exceptions to the consumption restriction are discussed below.

Drivers and Passengers Can Get Alcohol Consumption or Open Container Tickets

The open container and consumption restrictions apply to everyone inside a car that's located on a public highway or parking lot—including the driver and passengers.

You Can Get Two Tickets if You're Consuming Alcohol in a Vehicle

If a passenger or driver violates the restrictions on possessing an open container and consuming alcohol in a vehicle, citations can be issued for both offenses.

Exceptions to New Jersey's Open Container and Consumption Laws

Certain vehicles. New Jersey's open container and consumption laws aren't applicable to passengers riding in certain types of vehicles, including statutorily authorized limousines and buses. Patrons within the passenger areas of these vehicles are permitted to possess and consume alcohol.

Motorhome or camper. Beverage containers located in the living quarters of a motorhome or house trailer are exempt from open container requirements. However, this exception does not permit the consumption of alcohol in an operated motor home or house trailer.

Areas of the vehicle. New Jersey's open container laws are intended to apply to the passenger areas of the vehicle. So, the restrictions aren't applicable to items in the trunk of the car or behind the back seat (if the car doesn't have a trunk) as long as they aren't readily accessible to the driver or passengers.

Fines and Community Service for Open Container Tickets

First offense. An open container conviction—possession or consumption—in New Jersey will result in a fine of $200 but no jail time.

Second or subsequent offense. A second or subsequent open container or consumption conviction will result in fines of $250 or ten days of community service. (If a person is convicted of both possessing and consuming alcohol, they can be fined and punished for each offense separately.)

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