Open Container Laws in New Mexico

In New Mexico, possessing an open container in your vehicle could result in a $25 penalty and, eventually, a misdemeanor.
Written by Sophie Boka
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
New Mexico’s
open container law can lead to a $25 penalty and can even land you a misdemeanor.
Each state creates its own legislation around open container laws, so it’s important to know the regulations in your state.
To save you time, we're here to give you the 411 on the law, exceptions, and what you can do to avoid a potential violation.

What is the open container law in New Mexico?

Section 66-8-139
of New Mexico’s statutes, “Consumption or possession of alcoholic beverages in open containers in a motor vehicle prohibited; exceptions,” breaks down open container law.
According to the law, you can receive a citation if:
  • You know an open container is in your vehicle
  • The container, of any shape (can, bottle, etc.) is open or unsealed 
  • The open container holds any amount of alcohol
  • The container is located in the passenger area of the car (including the glove and utility compartment)
  • You are on a public highway, in motion or stopped
In short: It’s illegal to have an open container of any variety in your car unless it is sealed or kept in the trunk. This applies to both drivers and passengers, regardless of your sobriety levels.

What counts as an open container?

An “open container” isn’t just a glass of wine or a beer with its cap flicked off.
In New Mexico, it’s actually defined quite broadly: “Any bottle, can or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened or had its seal broken or the contents of which have been partially removed.”
Now, if you’re coming back from the grocery store and you throw a few bags of produce and a 6-pack in the back seat, you’re probably okay. But as soon as one of those bad boys opens, you’re out of luck. 

Exceptions to New Mexico’s open container law

While New Mexico’s open container law is pretty all-encompassing, there are a few notable exceptions.
Passengers are allowed to have an open container of alcohol if riding in one of the following licensed vehicles: 
  • Buses
  • Taxis
  • Limos
You are also allowed to stow open containers in:
  • The bed of a truck
  • A camper
  • A motor home or RV
New Mexico also makes an exception for leftover takeaway wine. If you’ve gone out to dinner, you are allowed to bring back a partially opened bottle of wine in your vehicle—but only if you do all of the following:
  • Attach your meal receipt to the bottle
  • Reseal the bottle with a cork
  • Place the bottle in a sealed bag
Key Takeaway If you knowingly possess an open container in the passenger area of your vehicle, you can be fined $25. A second offense will result in a misdemeanor.

Penalties for violating New Mexico’s open container law

If you’re only charged with violating New Mexico’s open container law and it’s your first time, you’ll be cited with a moving violation. This results in a $25 fine and points on your New Mexico driving record
But if this is your second or subsequent offense, you’ve committed a misdemeanor. The maximum consequences can include:
  • 90-day jail sentence
  • $300 fine
  • License revocation for three months
If you are caught offending over three times, your license can then be revoked for a year.
Whether it's your first offense or your third, being charged for an open container will create a criminal record. Insurance companies look at your record when calculating your premium, so if you want to avoid unnecessary rate hikes, it’s best to keep this breakdown in mind.
“When using
, I just put in a bit of information, and they found lots of different quotes for me. I was paying $305 a month for 2 brand-new cars, but now I’m paying $150 a month for both with full coverage!” —Robin U.


Any person in the vehicle could receive a citation if found violating the open container law in New Mexico.
No, passengers cannot drink alcohol in a car in New Mexico.
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