New Mexico’s Open Container Law and Violation Penalties

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

By , Attorney

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.

New Mexico's Open Container Law

In New Mexico, 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 to New Mexico's Open Container Restrictions

New Mexico's open container law has a number of exceptions related to the type of vehicle, the area of the vehicle, and the type of alcohol.

Areas of the Vehicle Where You Can Have an Open Container of Alcohol

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.

Open Containers of Alcohol Are Allowed in Certain 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 Can Have Open Containers of Alcohol

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

Partially Consumed Bottles of Wine Are Sometimes Allowed in Vehicles

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 for Open Container Violations in New Mexico

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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