What’s the difference between an open container violation and a DUI?

In New Jersey, as a motorist, you are legally required to abide by the rules of the road. This includes refraining from possessing an open or unsealed alcoholic container and driving while under the influence (DUI). Understandably, many people confuse open container violations and DUIs because they both involve alcohol. However, they are different driving infractions that carry different penalties. Continue to follow along to learn about these driving infractions and how an experienced Bergen County Criminal Defense Attorney can help you through this difficult time.

What are the potential penalties for an open container violation and DUI?

Open container 

In New Jersey, it is illegal for any person to possess open or unsealed alcoholic beverages while in a vehicle. The law stipulates that alcoholic beverages must be stored out of reach in the trunk of the motor vehicle or behind the last upright seat if the vehicle does not have a trunk. If you are caught with an open container and it is your first offense, you will be looking at a $200 fine. This may not seem like a serious penalty, however, having an open container violation on your driving record can increase your insurance rates as well as hinder future job opportunities. If you are caught with a second offense of an open container violation, the fine will be raised to $250. In some cases, the court may order that you complete certain allotted community service hours.


In New Jersey, if you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater you are considered driving while under the influence (DUI). DUI is one of the most serious driving infractions a motorist can be charged with. DUI penalties are more severe than those for operating a vehicle with an open container. Unlike driving with an open container, those charged with DUI may face an array of fines, license suspension, installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID), and even jail time. However, your penalties will vary depending on whether you have any previous offenses and your BAC level. For a first-offense DUI with a BAC of 0.08-0.10 percent, you will be subjected to numerous fines, up to 30 days in jail, license suspension until an IID is installed, and operating a vehicle with an IID for 3 months. If your BAC level was between 0.10% and 0.15%, you will be subjected to fines, 12 to 48 hours in the Intoxicated Driver Resource Center (IDRC), license suspension until an IID is installed, IID installation for 7 months to 1 year, and up to 30 days in jail. If your BAC is greater than 0.15% you will face the above penalties. However, you will face mandatory license suspension and the installation of an IID. Any other DUI charges will result in more severe penalties.

For more information on open container violations and DUIs, please don’t hesitate to speak with one of our qualified Bergen County criminal defense attorneys. Our firm is committed to helping our clients prevent harsh penalties.