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New York Open Container Law Defense Lawyer

Open container laws refer to laws that prohibit the consumption of alcohol in a car or in public. New York State and municipal law both bar people from drinking while driving or from drinking in public, and even holding an open container of alcohol at the wrong time can lead to significant liability.

If you’ve been cited for an open container violation in New York, you need to retain the services of a qualified criminal defense attorney to ensure that you respond promptly and appropriately. Ignoring an open container violation can lead to worse consequences, such as issuance of a bench warrant.  From their office in Goshen, the New York criminal defense attorneys at Dupée & Monroe, P.C. help people throughout the Hudson Valley and Orange County who have been issued citations for open container law violations.

New York’s Open Container Laws

New York State’s Vehicle & Traffic Law prohibits any driver or passenger of a motor vehicle on a public highway from consuming an alcoholic beverage, or from possessing an open container containing an alcoholic beverage. The law does not apply to sealed beverages, including resealed bottles of wine that are kept in the trunk or the far back seat.

Counties, cities, and other municipalities also prohibit the consumption of alcohol while on public roads or the possession of open alcohol containers in a car. State and city laws also generally prohibit drinking alcohol in public, outside of certain limitations, although the state and many localities do not have a specific law criminalizing a person for being intoxicated in public.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, bars and other businesses with the requisite liquor license were permitted to sell to-go wine and cocktails so long as they were kept in sealed containers. Even then, New Yorkers were not permitted to drink alcohol in public. That permission ended in June 2022, when Governor Cuomo declared the COVID-related “state of emergency” to be over and rescinded the relevant Executive Order. The state legislature is considering a bill that would make to-go cocktails legal permanently.

Exceptions to the Open Container Rules

Although New York law prohibits driving with an open container of alcohol, there are exceptions to the general rules.

Drinking on a public road is illegal, but the rule does not apply to certain vehicles designed to transport more than ten people. Occupants of specialty vehicles like limousines, party buses, and other similar vehicles are allowed to carry alcohol and even drink while on the road. Drivers of these vehicles cannot, of course, drink while driving or drive while intoxicated.

The laws also exclude empty containers that used to contain alcohol. Boxes or garbage bags full of empty beer cans, liquor bottles, or wine bottles cannot serve as the basis to charge a driver or vehicle occupants for an open container violation. Such empty containers may give police probable cause to conduct a sobriety test, but they do not violate the law in and of themselves. To violate the open container law, alcohol containers must have alcohol in them, and they must be in the driver’s or passenger’s possession when the officer approaches.

For non-driving open container offenses, there are exceptions as well. New York laws prohibit people from consuming alcoholic beverages in public places unless they are located at a block party or other designated event that has obtained a permit.

Consequences for Driving With an Open Container

Drivers convicted of an open container violation can face hefty penalties. For a first-time offense, a driver can be hit with a $150 fine. A second offense within 18 months is punishable by up to $300 in fines, while a third offense can be punished with a fine of up to $450. Additional surcharges on traffic violations can raise the cost even higher for offenders. Judges have the authority to sentence open-container offenders with up to 15 days in jail.

Having an open container of alcohol is also likely to lead to other consequences. Police are likely to conduct a sobriety check of a driver with an open container, and even blowing a low BAC on a breathalyzer can lead to a driving while ability impaired (DWAI) charge if the officer has reason to believe the driver is intoxicated. Open containers would support such a charge.

If you’ve been pulled over or charged under New York’s open container laws, talk to an experienced New York criminal defense attorney for advice and assistance.

Call Today for Experienced Help if You’ve Been Cited for an Open Container Violation

The lawyers at Dupée & Monroe have decades of experience helping people like you avoid the most serious consequences that can arise from open container violations or other criminal charges. If you’ve been cited for an open container violation, or if you have been arrested for some other offense in Goshen, Orange County or anywhere in the Hudson Valley region, contact Dupée & Monroe, P.C. for fast assistance from dedicated New York criminal defense attorneys.

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