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Open Container Law in New Mexico
27 Nov 2017

Open Container Law in New Mexico

Under New Mexico open container law, open container violations are moving violations. If you are facing an open container charge, the New Mexico criminal defense lawyers at Twohig Law Firm can evaluate your case. They may also be able to help you formulate a good legal defense to your charge.

The law defines an “open container” as any alcoholic beverage that you can consume immediately. An alcoholic beverage with a purposely broken seal may also constitute an open container. Under New Mexico law, a motor vehicle operator is deemed in possession of an open container if the container is not in a passenger’s possession – or otherwise locked away in a glove compartment or trunk. Therefore, even if a vehicle driver is not physically holding a drink while behind the wheel, an officer could still charge the driver with an open container violation.

Vehicle Passengers

In New Mexico, vehicle passengers of any age may not consume alcoholic beverages while on the road. This is true even if the vehicle driver is not consuming alcohol. The New Mexico open container law statute states that no person:

  • May knowingly have in his or her possession
  • While in a motor vehicle
  • Any bottle or receptacle which contains alcohol
  • That has been opened or has its seal broken (or partially removed)

Exceptions to the New Mexico Open Container Law

All laws have exceptions, and New Mexico’s open container law is no different. If the container in question is located in a trunk, an officer cannot charge you with a violation – even if the container is open. Under state law, a person may legally purchase alcohol and transport it to his or her home.

Punishments Upon Conviction

If the State charges and convicts you of an open container violation, the penalties will usually include points against your driver’s license, as well as an increase in your auto insurance premiums. If your only charge is the open container charge, you will likely have to pay a fine. However, if the State also charges you with driving while intoxicated (DWI), your penalties may include one or more of the following:

  • Monetary fines
  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Driver’s license revocation (i.e. for multiple offenses)
  • Jail time

Legal Defenses

As with all criminal charges, open container violations have several legal defenses associated with them. You can always contest an open container violation. It is important to understand that in many cases, open container arrests are based upon a police officer’s perception. In those cases, it may be difficult for the State to prove guilt.

In open container cases, the State has the burden of proving the defendant’s guilt. If the State cannot meet its burden, then the court may dismiss the case. In addition to arguing for a dismissal of your open container charge, your attorney may also be able to argue that the police officer did not have probable cause to stop and inspect your vehicle. If the police officer lacked probable cause, then any evidence uncovered – including the open container – may be inadmissible.

Contact an Albuquerque, New Mexico Open Container Law Criminal Defense Attorney Today

New Mexico open container law can be difficult to navigate, and criminal charges and convictions can result in harsh criminal penalties. The knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys at Twohig Law Firm can meet with you to review the circumstances of your traffic stop and evaluate your case. Our attorneys can also explain the potential penalties to you and help you formulate a good legal defense. Contact the New Mexico open container law criminal defense attorneys at Twohig Law Firm today by calling (505) 898-0400, for a free initial consultation.


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