New Mexico’s Open Container Law

The open container law in New Mexico and the consequences for drinking alcohol and possessing open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles.

In New Mexico, it’s illegal to drink alcohol or possess open containers of alcohol in a motor vehicle, subject to some exceptions. This article provides an overview of New Mexico’s open container law, exceptions to the law, and the penalties for possessing open containers in motor vehicles.

Open Container Law

It’s unlawful for a person to knowingly:

  • drink an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle that’s on a public highway, or
  • have possession of an open container of alcohol on the person’s body while in a motor vehicle that’s on a public highway.

The registered owner of a vehicle is also prohibited from keeping an open container of alcohol or allowing an open container to be kept in a motor vehicle when it’s on a public highway.

An “open container” is defined as a bottle, can, or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that’s open, has a broken seal, or has had some of the contents partially removed.

Exceptions

Areas within a vehicle. The registered owner of a motor vehicle can lawfully keep open containers of alcohol and allow others to keep open containers in the trunk of the vehicle. If the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the open container must be kept in an area of the vehicle that’s not typically occupied by the driver or passengers. However, an open container can’t be kept in a utility or glove compartment because those areas are considered to be within the area occupied by the driver and passengers.

Types of vehicles. The registered owner of a motor vehicle can lawfully keep open containers of alcohol and allow others to keep open containers in:

  • the living area of a motor home or recreational vehicle
  • a truck camper, or
  • the bed of a pick-up truck if it’s not occupied by passengers.

Passengers in vehicles for hire. The open container law doesn’t apply to passengers in buses, taxicabs, and limousines for hire that are licensed to transport passengers.

Partially consumed bottle of wine. An establishment licensed to sell wine can allow customers who have purchased a full course meal and consumed part of a bottle of wine to take the partially consumed bottle home. But to do so, the establishment must:

  • attach the receipt issued for the bottle of wine
  • reseal the bottle by reinserting a cork, and
  • seal the bottle in a tamper-proof bag.

To legally possess and transport one partially consumed bottle of wine in a motor vehicle, the customer must keep it in the trunk of the vehicle. And if the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the partially consumed bottle of wine must be kept in an area of the vehicle that’s not usually occupied by the driver or passengers.

Penalties

A person who violates New Mexico’s open container law commits a moving violation, punishable by a $25 fine and points added to an offender’s driving record.

A person who’s convicted of violating the open container law for a second or subsequent time commits a misdemeanor. The maximum sentence is imprisonment for 90 days and/or a $300 fine. In addition to jail and a fine, a second conviction results in a revocation of the offender’s license for three months. Upon a third or subsequent conviction, the offender’s license will be revoked for one year.

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