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New Hampshire Open Container Laws

In the state of New Hampshire drivers must be careful when they transport alcohol, even if they have not been consuming alcohol.  Drivers in New Hampshire are prohibited from transporting alcohol in the passenger area of his or her vehicle unless it is in its original sealed container.  If a driver wishes to transport partially filled containers of alcohol, he must do keep the container in the trunk of the vehicle.  If the vehicle does not have a trunk, the alcohol must be transported in the area of the vehicle that is least accessible to the driver.  Not only are partially filled containers of alcohol not allowed to be in the passenger area of a vehicle on the “ways” of New Hampshire, they are also not allowed to be in the passenger compartment in any area that is principally used for public parking.  The statute defines a “way” as “the entire width between the boundary lines of any public highway, street, avenue, road, alley, park, or parkway, or any private way laid out under authority of statute, or any such way provided and maintained by a public institution to which state funds are appropriated for public use or any such way which has been used for public travel for 20 years.

Drivers do not have to be “transporting” alcohol to violate this law.  Simply possessing an open or partially filled container of alcohol in the prohibited area of a vehicle in an area used principally for public parking or on a public way makes the driver subject to a charge.  The car does not have to be moving or running.

There are two exceptions to the open container law.  Taxis, chartered buses, and limousines for hire are not included in the law unless the driver of that vehicle is, for any reason, prohibited from having open containers in the passenger compartment of the vehicle he or she is operating.  Also, the passenger area of a motor vehicle does not include parts of motor vehicles that have been designed or modified for overnight accommodations of people or living quarters.  This is a common exception to open container laws and is generally referred to as the “motor home exception.”

Drivers who are under the age of 21 are not allowed to have alcohol in any portion of a vehicle unless they are accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse who is over the age of 21.  A violation of this law carries the same penalties as a violation by a driver who is over 21 years old.

When a person is found guilty of violating the open container law, he will be fined $150 and, if it is his first violation, have his driver’s license or driving privileges suspended for 60 days.  If the driver has had a previous open container violation, his license or privileges will be suspended for one year.

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