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

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

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.

The open container restriction applies to everyone inside a car that’s located on a public highway or parking lot—including the driver and passengers.

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.

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

Exceptions

Certain vehicles. New Jersey’s open container and consumptions 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 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

An open container conviction—possession or consumption—in New Jersey will result in a fine of $200 but no jail time. However, subsequent convictions will result in fines of $250 or ten days of community service. If a person is convicted of both possessing and consuming alcohol, they will be fined and punished for each offense separately.

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