Skip to Content
Serving Clients Throughout Long Island and the Five Boroughs Free Consultations 888-966-8480

Open Container Laws in New York

Serving Families Throughout Garden City
People with open beer bottles in a car

New York police officers are serious about all alcohol-related driving offenses. They will typically conduct field sobriety tests when they have any indication a driver may have been drinking, even if they do not smell alcohol or observe empty cans in the vehicle.

The field test can give the officer an opportunity to evaluate any impairment level of the driver, regardless of the obvious surroundings.

Some circumstances can include open containers in a vehicle, which are technically illegal in the state of New York. The problem is that technicalities matter when open container citations are being used as an additional charge in a questionable DWI arrest, which are cases that an experienced New York criminal defense attorney can help with. 

New York's Open Container Law

In the state of New York, it is illegal to drink from or have an open container of alcohol in a public place. This also applies to drivers and passengers in a car, even if the vehicle is not being driven. The only way to legally transport an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is if it is stowed in the trunk.

Open Container Technicalities

New York law stipulates that drinking on a public highway is illegal, but there is an exemption for vehicles designed to carry ten or more riders. Occupants of conventional passenger vehicles are not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages while riding.

In addition, empty canisters that previously contained alcohol are not illegal as well. An open container must contain some alcohol and be in the possession of a passenger or the driver when the officer spots the violation.

These details are often overlooked as a defense in cases where the defendant does not have aggressive representation by a DWI defense attorney who will investigate all state evidence.

Enhanced Charges

A charge for an open container is normally prosecuted as a non-criminal offense that results in a summons to court in lieu of being arrested. Open container charges associated with other citations can be handled differently, such as having an additional filing for public intoxication, assault, or even a DWI.

Prosecutors also have the authority to enhance charges to criminal status when the material case factors allow. Compounded charges are common in many cases, and an experienced DWI attorney will understand when the prosecution is attempting to stack the charges and can address the issue in case negotiation.


A simple conviction for a standard open container charge can be a matter of appearing in court and paying the associated fine. It is usually not treated as a crime. However, that is not always the case, as many criminal cases will include open container legal issues that are central to the case.

Serious charges could result in jail time when the defendant does not have solid representation from a DWI defense attorney who can craft an argument for maximum reasonable doubt. Even though a conviction is a misdemeanor, open container charges can impact punishment stemming from other charges in a strongly prosecuted case.

Contact a New York DWI Defense Attorney

It is always important to be aware that New York law enforcement agencies are concerned with alcohol consumption in public places, including in a vehicle. Charge convictions can do more personal damage than one realizes, as it establishes a court record even in minor situations.

Allow the New York criminal defense attorneys at Foley Griffin to provide you with aggressive and professional legal representation.

Contact our firm at (888) 966-8480 to discuss your case today.
Share To: