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What is New York's Open Container Law?

It sometimes happens that being pulled over for a minor traffic infraction can lead to being charged with something more serious. Recently, a woman in Niagara Falls was pulled over for failing to signal a turn. According to the Buffalo News, the woman was driving with a revoked license for a prior DWI conviction and had open beer cans in the back seat of her car. She failed the Field Sobriety Tests administered to her and was then charged with several DWI-related offenses, as well as failure to use a turn signal, which was why she was initially pulled over. Read this blog post to learn more about New York’s Open Container Law, as well as how minor traffic infractions like those described here can lead to more serious charges and how an attorney can help.


Open Container Law and Penalties

In New York State, it is against the law to drink from or have an open container of alcohol in a public place. This law does not apply to residences or business establishments with liquor licenses, but it does prohibit drivers and passengers from possessing or consuming an open container of alcohol in the car. The law applies even when the car is not being driven, meaning being inside a parked vehicle does not allow you to have a drink. The only way to be sure that you will not get in trouble with the law for having an open bottle of alcohol in your car is if it is in the trunk.

If a police officer discovers you transporting open bottles of alcohol in your car, you could be charged a fine. However, it is possible that this discovery could lead to the assumption that you were driving under the influence of alcohol. This means that the officer could ask to administer a Blood Alcohol Test or various Field Sobriety Tests to determine whether or not you have been drinking and driving.

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

There are several Standardized Field Sobriety Tests that a police office could ask you to perform in order to determine if you have been driving under the influence of alcohol before they charge you with a DWI. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration formally allows three of these tests: the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the one-leg stand, and the walk-and-turn. In the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the police officer will move their finger, a pen, or another object from side to side. You will be asked to follow the object with your eyes so the officer can see if you are able to do so without your eyes exhibiting a jerking motion. In the walk-and-turn test, you will be required to walk heel to toe in a straight line. You will then be expected to turn around and walk heel to toe back to your original position.

You may be asked to perform any combination of these tests, as well as others not formally allowed by the NTSA, but it is important to remember that you are not required to perform any of them. If you have been arrested and refuse these tests, however, you could incur another traffic infraction. As a licensed driver, you are also subject to the Implied Consent Law. This law says that, as a result of having a driver’s license, you have already consented to a blood, urine, or breath test if you are suspected of drunk driving. Refusal to take these tests could result in your license being suspended for at least a year.

Who to call

If you have been pulled over for a violation of the open container law and you have been or fear you could be charged with DWI, contact the attorneys at Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria. The firm’s DWI attorneys are recognized as leaders in the field. They are well-versed in potential penalties and are able to uncover weaknesses in the charges against you. Lipsitz Green’s attorneys will provide you with an aggressive and effective DWI defense.


This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.

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