What Happens If I'm Caught With an Open Container in New Jersey?

Open Container Laws In New Jersey

Drivers in New Jersey are prohibited from possessing any open or unsealed container of any alcoholic beverage while in a vehicle. Exceptions do exist with regard to buses, taxis, and other common carriers. Pursuant to N.J. Stat. § 39:4-51b, this regulation applies to all passengers in the vehicle for any type of open alcoholic beverage container. This means that a passenger is equally as liable as the driver for an open container violation in New Jersey.

What Is “Possession” In This Context?

Possession, in this context, is a very broad term. Many people think of possession in terms of having a drink in hand or immediately accessible in a cup holder. But, the term encompasses much more than that. An open container of alcohol in a vehicle is said to be in “possession” of the driver if it is anywhere except in the trunk or behind the furthest possible (backwards) seat if the car does not have trunk. An exception also exists for mobile homes or house trailers.

What Exactly Does “OPEN” Mean?

Open or unsealed, in this context, refers to any manner of carrying alcohol in which the original seal of the container is broken. Obviously, this is satisfied by an open glass or cup. It is also satisfied with any empty or partially empty container or bottle located anywhere in the vehicle except the trunk or behind the last seat. This means that if you get behind the wheel, regardless of if you are intoxicated at all, an empty beer can on your passenger seat can result in a violation.

What Are The Penalties For An Open Container In New Jersey?

The penalty for a first-time offense is a $200 fine. To many, this seems to be a rather small penalty and not all that severe. But, the fact is, this violation will follow you around for the rest of your life. The stigma alone may be enough to raise insurance rates as well as have negative effects on future employment opportunities. For a second-time offender, the fine may be raised to $250, or the court may order community service hours at their discretion. These factors alone are reason enough to fight the charge vigorously, and we are happy to provide help here at Villani & DeLuca, P.C.

Open A Mess For Yourself?

Villani & DeLuca, P.C. are very experienced when it comes to open container violations. While there does not appear to be a lot of room for debate in these cases, Villani & DeLuca know precisely what to look for to defend your rights properly. The existence of a procedural error committed by the acting officer could be instrumental to your case's defense. With over 100 years combined experience, the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca, P.C. have seen it all. Our lawyers can advise you of your rights and discuss all available options for resolving your open container violation; contact us today at 732-372-0820 for the excellent legal representation you deserve!