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Can I Get in Trouble If My Passenger Has an Open Container?

When you go out with friends, you may offer to be the designated driver, sticking to water or soda instead of alcohol so your friends can get home safely. However, when they bring an open bottle or half-consumed can of beer into your car, you may not realize that you can be charged with a traffic violation. If you’re facing a fine for driving with an open container in your vehicle, you may require the assistance of a Bergen County traffic ticket attorney to help reduce the charges. Read on to learn more about this violation and what penalties you can expect to face.

What Are the Open Container Laws?

In New Jersey, there is an open container rule prohibiting drivers from operating their vehicle when there is an unsealed or open container of alcohol in the passenger portion of their car. So, you can be entirely sober and drive your friends home but still face legal trouble if your friend has an unsealed liquor bottle in their hands while you’re driving. This is because a driver can technically be in “possession” of the alcohol.

If the bottle is empty, it cannot be considered an open container but will be classified as trash. However, if the officer suspects the driver was operating the vehicle under the influence, the presence of an empty bottle can hurt a DWI defense if the driver is charged.

Similarly, open container laws do not apply to alcohol bottles that have their original seal or are open but placed in the trunk. For example, if you purchased beer and leave the six-pack sealed in your backseat, you cannot face an open container violation. However, if you are transporting an unsealed and half-consumed bottle of liquor, you can keep it in your trunk and will not face a violation.

What Penalties Can I Face?

An open container violation can leave you with a $200 fine and a permanent stain on your driving record. Though this isn’t a criminal charge, this violation can lead to trouble down the road. For example, if an officer suspects you are driving under the influence, they may see the open container violation on your driving record, making them more likely to arrest you. Keeping your record clean is essential to protecting your future.

Can an Attorney Help?

Though this charge may not seem like a big deal or easily avoidable, an attorney can help you navigate this violation. For example, the reason for the stop may have been illegal, meaning the case is much more likely to be dropped, as any evidence gathered through an unlawful search is not permissible during a trial.

When you need assistance with your open container violation in New Jersey, don’t wait to reach out to our firm. The Law Office of Attorney Conway has the experience you need to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your circumstances. Contact us today to set up a free consultation with our dedicated legal team to learn how we can help you.

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