New Hampshire’s Open Container Laws
According to RSA 265-A:44, it is illegal to have an “open container”
in New Hampshire no matter the age of the driver. The law prohibits transporting
or possessing any alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of a car where
the “seal” is broken. These cases are treated as Violations,
but convictions can lead to a penalty of a minimum 60 day license loss
for a first offense, a fine of $150, and a license loss of up to one year
for subsequent offenses. Passengers are also prohibited from having an
open container while the vehicle is located in a public or private way.
There are several exceptions to the Open Container Laws:
- Passengers in hired vehicles such as taxis, buses or limos
- Certain areas inside of a vehicle - open alcohol containers that are securely
capped can be transported in the trunk or compartment that is not accessible
by the driver
- Opened table wine, as long as the individual is not intoxicated, and the
bottle securely sealed and bagged in a compartment where the driver cannot
Law enforcement observation of an open container can often lead to further
investigation for other offenses, including Driving While Intoxicated.
Our attorneys understand that substantial license losses impact our clients’
employment and family obligations. Knowledgeable about these risks, they
craft their strategy to avoid license losses where possible.
Simple possession and transportation of marijuana remains a Misdemeanor
in New Hampshire, which is a crime. Over and over again, we are called
upon to defend clients in simple roadside stops, which result in arrests
for drug possession. What may first appear as a minor matter quickly escalates
to a major concern.
Convictions can result in criminal records as well as loss of federal financial
aid for college students. Understanding the range of available outcomes
in such cases is critical and these outcomes differ dramatically between
different courts throughout the state.
Our defense attorneys are well aware of the various diversionary results
that are common in such cases and frequently rely on that knowledge to
broker outcomes for our clients which avoid criminal convictions. Where
such results cannot be found, our criminal lawyers stand ready to take
a case to trial knowledgeable about the issues common to drug cases, including
the nuances of search and seizure law.
More and more, we see cases that begin with a routine stop of a younger
driver, followed by an allegation that the officer involved can smell
the odor of marijuana, resulting in a request to search the vehicle.
Sometimes, requests for consent are accompanied by claims that law enforcement
will secure a search warrant or summon drug sniffing dogs if a driver
does not comply with a search request.
However, New Hampshire’s constitution is more protective than the
United States Constitution as well as laws in several of our sister states
when it comes to search and seizure law, something that law enforcement
officers often overlook on the roadside. Identifying fundamental constitutional
issues, even in these simple matters, may improve case negotiations and
the likelihood of successfully defending a case in court.
Transportation of Alcoholic Beverages by Minors
It is a Violation for a minor to possess or transport alcohol in a motor
vehicle even in a sealed container. Convictions result in a 60 day license
loss, which results in punishment to the minor driver as well as his or
her family. Effective representation, includes identifying alternative
ways to resolve cases without convictions and required license losses,
including the consideration of community service and other counseling.
Our goal in defending any case involving a younger client is to resolve
it without any conviction, where possible. For our younger clients looking
forward to future job and educational opportunities, we believe insulating
a client’s motor vehicle record is enormously important and we frame
our defense with this goal in mind.
To learn more about how Shaheen & Gordon, P.A. can assist you, contact a
New Hampshire DWI lawyer at the firm today.