It IS Legal to Drink Alcohol in a Vehicle, But Before You Do…
I was shocked to discover that it is legal to drink alcohol while in a vehicle, but only if you are traveling in the right place and NOT driving.
I recently saw a photo on Facebook of someone on their way to vacation enjoying a White Claw while riding in the car. Immediately I started shaking my head, wondering why someone would be dumb enough to post a photo of themselves breaking the law. I mean, everyone knows you can't have an open container of alcohol in the car right?
Just as I was going to write this person off as another social media moron, I noticed they typed a disclaimer under the photo. It said, "by the way, I'm not breaking any laws, today I found out it's totally legal to drink in the car."
Now I began to get curious. Was this person really a scholar of the penal code, or did they find this "fact" from someone even dumber than they are on Facebook? Recently I learned that 18-year-olds can drink alcohol in some bars and restaurants if they're with their parents, so maybe this was another loophole I was unaware of.
Is it legal to drink alcohol in a car in New York?
I did some digging and confirmed that under New York law both drivers and passengers are prohibited from drinking alcohol or possessing an open container while in a vehicle. The statue even includes cars that are parked. The only vehicles you are allowed to drink alcohol in are commercial buses and limousines with proper paperwork. The person on Facebook was clearly in a passenger vehicle.
Realizing that this photo was taken on the way to vacation I began to search surrounding states to see if, perhaps, it was allowed in some areas. In Pennsylvania, the open container law pertains to anyone in a car that is being operated, including passengers. New Jersey also forbids anyone in a vehicle, on a public street or in other public places from having alcohol that is not sealed (sorry, Snooki).
But wait... It IS legal for passengers to drink alcohol in a car
It turns out that one state bordering the Hudson Valley actually does allow you to have an open container in your vehicle. According to Connecticut state law, it's perfectly legal to drink alcohol as a vehicle passenger. While it's a crime to drink and drive, those who aren't behind the wheel are free to crack open a beer without any fear of breaking the law.
Connecticut is among nine states that still allow alcohol consumption in vehicles. This spring there was a push to pass legislation banning open containers in the constitution state, but that failed to gain support among lawmakers. So, the next time you're a passenger traveling on I-84 you may want to bring a cooler with you and pop open a cold one. But before you do, make sure you're safely past Danbury, because that way it will be completely legal.