New York’s Open Container Law

The open container law in New York and the penalties for drinking alcohol or possessing open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles.

In New York, it’s illegal to drink or possess open containers of alcoholic beverages in motor vehicles. The prohibition on possessing open containers of alcohol applies to both drivers and passengers. However, there are some exceptions allowing passengers to drink and possess open containers in certain circumstances. This article provides an overview of New York’s open container law, the exceptions to the law, and the penalties for violating the law.

Open Container Law

It’s unlawful for drivers and passengers to consume alcoholic beverages or to possess open containers of alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle that’s located on a public highway or right-of-way. Consumption of alcohol and possession of an open container is illegal regardless of whether the vehicle is being operated or is parked.

Exceptions

Passenger vehicles. Passengers can lawfully drink alcohol and possess open containers of alcohol in passenger vehicles. However, the passenger vehicle must be designed to carry ten or more passengers for profit or hire and operate pursuant to a permit or certificate issued by the New York or the United States Department of Transportation.

Partially consumed bottle of wine. A restaurant licensed to sell wine can allow customers to take a partially consumed bottle of wine home if:

  • the customer has purchased a full course meal and consumed part of the bottle at the restaurant
  • the bottle is securely sealed in a bag that makes it visibly apparent if the bottle has been tampered with, and
  • the customer is provided with a dated receipt for the bottle.

The person transporting the bottle of wine must place it in the vehicle’s trunk. If the vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, the opened bottle must be transported behind the last upright seat of the vehicle or in an area not typically occupied by the driver or passengers.

Penalties

A driver or passenger who violates New York’s open container law commits a traffic infraction. For a first conviction, the maximum penalty is a $150 fine and/or up to 15 days in jail. For a second conviction within 18 months, the maximum penalty is a $300 fine and/or up to 45 days in jail. A third or subsequent conviction within 18 months carries a maximum $450 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail.

An offender is also responsible for paying court fees and assessments. In addition to the fine and jail time, an open container conviction can result in points added to the offender’s driving record.

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