Drinking or possessing an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle while in New York can have serious consequences. If you’re drinking alcohol or consuming any form of cannabis, or there’s an open container of an alcoholic beverage in your car while you’re on a public highway or right-of-way public highway, you could face legal action. You and anyone in the car with you will be guilty of a traffic violation. If you’re a New York resident, here are some important things you should know to avoid a DUI/DWI charge.

More on the NY open container rule

In the state of New York, alcohol or cannabis consumption is not permitted in a vehicle. If the driver or passengers are found with an open container that contains an alcoholic beverage, they will receive a citation. While drinking in a vehicle on a public highway in New York is illegal, there is an exception for passenger vehicles. It is also not illegal to have empty containers in a vehicle that previously contained alcohol. This often presents a technicality in DUI/DWI situations, especially if an officer is not able to prove that the driver or passengers were consuming alcohol while the vehicle was moving.

What is considered a passenger vehicle in New York?

For the purpose of determining whether someone is guilty of a DUI/DWI, a passenger vehicle is classified as a vehicle that is designed to carry ten or more individuals and used for the purpose of transporting people for hire or profit.

If you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWI, it’s important to get a qualified lawyer to represent you as soon as possible. Be sure to explain all the details of your case and present any evidence you have to your attorney so you are able to receive the assistance you need.



James Auricchio was admitted to the practice of Law in 2001. He entered private practice in 2010 after earning distinction as a State and Federal Prosecutor.

Named to the list of Superlawyers, in 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024, a distinction awarded to less than 5 percent of all attorneys in New York State