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What is the Open Container Law in New Mexico?


Woman with an Alcoholic BeverageThe New Mexico open container law is part of New Mexico Statute 66-8-138. It defines an open container as any alcoholic beverage that is capable of immediately being consumed, or one with a seal that has been broken purposely.

Under the statute, it states that an open container is considered in the possession of the operator of a vehicle if it is not in the possession of the passenger, or located in a locked glove box or inside the trunk. Therefore, you could be charged with an open container violation while driving, even if you are not physically holding that drink.

Could a Passenger of a Vehicle Legally Drink While the Driver is Sober?

New Mexico does not allow passengers, even of legal age, to consume alcoholic beverages while driving – even if the driver of the vehicle is not consuming alcohol. This is still a direct violation of the open container law. Under the statute, it states clearly that no person shall knowingly have in his or her possession, while in a motor vehicle, any bottle or receptacle containing alcohol that has been opened or has its seal broken (or even partially removed).

Exceptions to the Open Container Law

As with all laws, there are exceptions. If your container is locked inside the trunk, even if opened, you should not be charged with an open container law. That is because it is legal to purchase alcohol in the state and transport it to your home.

Potential Punishments for Open Container Violations in New Mexico

Open containers are generally punished as moving violations when you are driving a vehicle. Therefore, the convictions will typically include points against your license, and possibly an increase in auto insurance premiums. As long as you are only charged with the open container violation, you should only face a fine.

If, however, you are charged with open container violations while driving under the influence, you could face much more serious penalties. The potential punishments include fines, license suspensions (or revocation, if you have multiple offenses), and even jail or prison time.

Defense Options for an Open Container Violation

You can contest an open container violation. Often, these arrests are based on a police officer’s perception, which makes it difficult for them to prove actual guilt. If you hire a New Mexico criminal defense attorney, your attorney can contest that perception, and possibly have the charges dismissed.

Also, your attorney can argue that the officer did not have probable cause in the first place to stop or inspect your vehicle. Without probable cause, the officer had no right to discover the open container.

Speak with a New Mexico Criminal Defense Attorney Today

If you have been arrested for an open container violation in combination with a DUI or you have been accused of an open container violation, contact New Mexico Criminal Law Offices today. We can assist you with your defense. Schedule your no-obligation consultation at 505-375-4661, or fill out our online contact form and one of our attorneys will be in touch with you shortly.