NH Law About... Open Containers and Vehicles

Introduction to... Open Containers and Vehicles

Updated May 9, 2017.

New Hampshire's RSA 265-A:44* prohibits an adult driver from transporting, carrying, possessing or having liquor or beverage (as defined by RSA 175:1**) within the passenger area of any vehicle on a New Hampshire “way”, unless the seal of the original container is unbroken.  A NH resident guilty of violating this law may be fined $150 and may face possible temporary suspension of his or her driver’s license. A non-resident guilty of a violation may face a fine and a temporary suspension of driving privileges. There are limited exceptions to this law for chartered buses, taxis and limos for hire, or for vehicles which have been modified for overnight use or as living quarters.  

Also under RSA 265-A:44, drivers under the age of 21 may not transport any liquor or beverage, even in unopened containers, in any part of a vehicle, unless accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or legal aged spouse. Persons under the age of 21 operating a boat, transporting liquor or beverage (as defined by RSA 175:1), with intent to consume, unless accompanied by a parent, legal guardian or legal aged spouse, may be guilty of a violation and may temporarily lose the privilege to operate a boat or drive a car.  

According to RSA 179:27-a, patrons at restaurants who are not in a state of intoxication (as defined by RSA 507-F:1, IV) and have purchased a full course meal and purchased and partially consumed a bottle of table wine with the meal may remove that bottle from the restaurant after the staff securely seal and bag the bottle.  This sealing and bagging should be done in conformance with any local open container laws for those patrons traveling by foot; for patrons traveling in a vehicle, the sealed and bagged wine may be transported in the trunk of a vehicle, or, if there is no trunk, in a compartment or area least accessible to the driver.  Violation of this statute is punishable by a $250 fine. 

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ...  is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.  


*H.B. 228 (2017) if passed will amend RSA 265-A:44.  

**H.B. 353 (2017) if passed will amend RSA 175:1.  


Read about... Open Containers and Vehicles


NOLO.com. Open Container Violations

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

Although not about New Hampshire law, this article has a good general discussion of the open liquor container near the driver or a passenger in vehicle, which is the most common alcohol-related offense where the driver is not charged with DUI/DWI.   GO>


97 A.L.R.6th 653.Validity, Construction, and Application of Open Container Laws

Open container laws, which complement drunk driving and public drinking laws, prohibit the existence of open containers of alcoholic beverage in motor vehicles or in public places. Motor vehicle open container laws generally prohibit any person in the passenger area of a motor vehicle to possess an open alcoholic beverage container while the motor vehicle is driving on a roadway or located in a public parking area. Public open container laws generally prohibit possession of open containers of alcoholic beverage in public places.   GO>

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

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Read the law about... Open Containers and Vehicles


RSA 175. Definitions and General Provisions  GO>

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

RSA 179. Enforcement Requirements and Penalties  GO>

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

RSA 265-A. Alcohol or Drug Impairment  GO>

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

RSA 507-F. Alcoholic Beverage Licensee Liability  GO>

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

RSA 625. Criminal Code.  GO>

Link verified on: December 27, 2017

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated

Link verified on: June 29, 2018

Find the New Hampshire statutes in print at libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>


23 U.S.C. 154. Open Container Requirements

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

For states to retain federal funding for highways, federal law requires states to pass and enforce legislation prohibiting drivers and passengers from having open containers of alcohol in vehicles. This federal law was the impetus for New Hampshire's passage of the open container law.   GO>


United States. Dept. of Transportation. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Open Container Laws and Alcohol Involved Crashes. 2002

Link verified on: May 9, 2017

According to this article, states with open container laws have fewer alcohol-involved vehicle crashes.   GO>


Link verified on: May 18, 2018

Volunteer attorneys are available to answer legal questions through LawLine, a free service of the NH Bar Association. LawLine is held on the SECOND Wednesday of each month from 6:00 p.m. ~ 8:00 p.m. To reach LawLine, call (toll free) 800-868-1212.   GO>

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: June 29, 2018

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>

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