Every driver knows that it is unlawful to drive under the influence of alcohol. However, they may be unaware that it is also illegal to operate a vehicle with an open or unsealed container of alcohol in the vehicle.
New Jersey law prohibits drivers and their passengers, regardless of age, from possessing open or unsealed containers of alcohol, including beer, wine, or hard liquor bottles, while traveling on public roadways. This law does not apply to charters, special buses, and limousine services.
Our qualified New Jersey criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella, LLC, has over 25 years defending drivers from around the state. Let us fight for you. Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation.
Consuming Alcohol in a Vehicle
According to N.J.S.A. 39:4-51a, neither a driver nor a passenger shall consume alcohol while operating a vehicle.
Any person who is found to be consuming an alcoholic beverage — as a driver or passenger — is in violation, specifically if an unsealed container of alcohol is found in the vehicle and within a person’s reach, if the contents have been partially or consumed, and the conduct of any vehicle occupant can be associated with the consumption of alcohol.
A person convicted of violating this statute faces a fine of $200 for their first offense. Additionally, they will be informed of the consequences they will face if they are found to violate the statute again in the future.
For a second-time offender, a person who receives a conviction for consuming alcohol in a vehicle will be fined $250 and must complete 10 days of community service. Appropriate
community service is at the discretion of the court, which shall deem what projects are applicable under the circumstances.
Consequences of Operating a Vehicle With an Open Container of Alcohol
Simply having an open or unsealed alcohol container is not against the law if it is not easily accessible to the driver or passenger. An alcoholic beverage can legally be transported in the trunk of a motor vehicle, behind the last upright seat in a trunkless vehicle, or in the living quarters of a motor home.
Even if you have not been drinking, there are consequences to having an open alcohol container easily accessible in the cab of your vehicle. According to N.J.S.A. 39:4-51b, these consequences include financial penalties and more, such as:
- A $200 fine for first-time offenders
- A $250 fine for second-time offenders
- Up to 10 days of community service for second-time offenders
- A forfeiture or suspension of driving and registration privileges
These consequences do not take into account additional potential offenses, such as driving while intoxicated, that an officer may include.
Contact an Experienced Attorney in New Jersey About Your Open Beverage Charge
Fighting an open alcohol container offense on your own can be difficult. Let our experienced criminal defense attorney use his over 20 years of experience to defend your rights. Call 856-310-9800 to schedule a free consultation today and speak with us.