NYC Open Container Tickets and Summonses: A Lawyer's Guide

Updated on June 6, 2018
JasonStern profile image

Jason Stern, one of New York’s top criminal defense attorneys, has been featured in the NY Times, Good Morning America, CNN and Fox News.


What Is an Open Container Violation?

Open Container laws are state or local laws that prohibit the drinking of alcoholic beverages in either public places such as parks and streets or in private places such as vehicles.

Nearly all states have some type of law against possessing an open container of alcohol in a public place. For the most part, these laws are selectively enforced. For example, police will ignore thousands of people publicly drinking while tailgating at a sports or music event, but enforce the law against students in a college town or pedestrians on the streets of New York City.

In New York City the Open Container law (Section 10-125 of the NYC Administrative Code) states in part, as follows:

§ 10-125 Consumption of Alcohol on Streets Prohibited

b. No person shall drink or consume an alcoholic beverage, or possess, with intent to drink or consume, an open container containing an alcoholic beverage in any public place except at a block party, feast or similar function for which a permit has been obtained.

e. Any person who shall be found to have violated any of the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty-five dollars ($25) or imprisonment of up to five (5) days, or both, or pursuant to the provisions of the family court act of the state of New York where applicable.

How to Handle the NYC Open Container Summons

The NYPD is one of the most prolific law enforcement agencies in the world in its voluminous issuance of Open Container tickets, issuing upwards of 40,000 summonses each year for the 10-125 (b) charge.

One of the issues facing those charged with Open Container tickets is that they are often issued the summons while visiting New York City. In fact, nearly half of the summonses that I review each year are issued to non-residents of New York. Unfortunately, those summonses usually require people to come to 346 Broadway Criminal Court 2-3 months after the issuance! For most people from out of New York, returning to NYC to personally appear in court is simply not feasible.

Fortunately, the Criminal Courts in New York tend to be relatively lenient on the requirement that the defendant appear in person. Nearly all NYC Courts will permit a defendant on an Open Container case to appear via his or her attorney and also permit the lawyer to accept a non-criminal violation disposition on his client's behalf (provided that the lawyer presents an authorization to the judge).

If you happen to live in New York City, you'll probably choose to go to Court for yourself, but be forewarned: You could wind up spending several hours waiting in line (in the snow or rain) just to gain entry to the Courthouse (particularly at 346 Broadway) and several more hours waiting for your case to be heard.

For both non-New York residents who can't be bothered to travel back to New York and NYC residents who would rather not take a day off work or spending an entire day among the 'undesirables' of criminal court, having an open container attorney appear on your behalf makes a lot of sense.

One Centre Street - Manhattan Criminal Court Location

One Centre Street NY NY 10007:
1 Centre St, New York, NY 10007, USA

get directions

Tricks to Beat Your NYC Open Container Summons

In order to beat your New York Open Container ticket, here are a few tips:

  • If you're going to consume alcohol in public, be aware that there are exceptions for street festivals, certain park events, and stadiums.
  • Be careful about bars and restaurants that have ambiguous boundaries — the Central Park restaurants and bars are notorious for having people step down a step and get ticketed by passing park police!
  • If consuming alcohol on the city streets, one would be wise not to carry an easily identifiable beer bottle or can. These are the easiest for the police to spot.
  • Placing said alcoholic beverage in a paper bag is also a bright, red flag for police. There is no exception for bottles and cans that are inside a paper bag.
  • Police DO NOT TEST for alcohol nor will they TASTE the beverage. A beverage in a paper or plastic cup that smells alcoholic can only be identified as alcohol by YOU.
  • There are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages that smell exactly like beer and liquor.
  • A sealed alcoholic beverage is not subject to the prohibitions of 10-125(2)(b). The law requires that the container of alcohol be OPEN.
  • Merely being WITH a person consuming alcohol on the city streets should never subject a person to being cited for that same offense. The only person who can legally be charged with an open container of alcohol violation is the person in POSSESSION of the open, alcoholic beverage.

How I Know What I Know

I am an attorney that has been practicing criminal law and representing defendants in New York for 15 years, during which time I have also served both New York City and New York State as an Impartial Hearing Officer, Administrative Law Judge and Small Claims Arbitrator.

As an expert and media personality, I have appeared on or been featured in The New York Times, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, Good Morning America, CNN, US News & World Report, Headline News, Huffington Post, ABC, Dallas Morning News, Men's Vogue, BBC Radio and countless other media outlets.

Questions & Answers

  • I disclosed an open container citation to the USCIS as part of my naturalization application. USCIS have now asked for a court disposition relating to the matter. The citation was issued nearly five years ago, and I do not have any record of it. Any suggestions on how I can obtain a disposition?

    A certificate of disposition can be obtained at the court clerk’s office for a fee if you have the time to go downtown and wait on line. If not, my office can arrange to obtain one on your behalf for a nominal fee of $75 including all fees and mailing the Certificate to your current address.

  • I was beaten and reported to CPS in White Plains where my boyfriend lives because I packed a bottle of vodka in my tote to give away because I didn’t want it. They beat me in front of my son and made up a bogus case to CPS. Is this legal?

    Are you referring to the police or someone else? In any event, if you were arrested or are being investigated by CPS, you may need the services of an attorney. Please feel free to reach out to me any time.

  • I received an open container ticket a little over five years ago but I lot the ticket and forgot about it so I was never paid. How do I resolve this issue?

    If you never responded to the ticket, it’s possible there is a judgment against you in NYC. If you can provide me with some basic info, I may be able to help you. Please follow up with me by email at

  • Can you end up going to jail for paying a ticket late?

    No, you cannot. The worst that can happen after appearing but not paying is that the court can enter a notation on your credit report indicating an outstanding debt.

  • I got a ticket over 2 years ago but was returning to the United Kingdom the next day and could not pay it. Would a warrant be issued for international travelers or thrown out?

    The warrant is issued automatically upon your failure to appear so it would make no difference whether you are a US citizen or an international traveler. Having an outstanding warrant can result in delays at the airport upon returning to the USA or even arrest if returning to New York. The good news is that a warrant can be vacated (removed) without you being present by an attorney on your behalf.

© 2011 Jason Stern


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • JasonStern profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Stern 

      12 months ago from New York

      Hi Andrew,

      The answer depends on when you received the summons and whether it was criminal or civil in nature. I don’t want to mislead anyone reading this with advice that may not apply to them so please reach out to me directly at and I’ll be able to provide on-point guidance.

    • profile image


      14 months ago

      What's the statute of limitations on an Open Container Violation in NYC?

    • profile image

      2 years ago

      So in 2006 I gotten a ticket and I went to court they gave me a couple of months to pay a ticket I totally forgot about the ticket and 3 years later I found the ticket and i still never went. Will I get a warrant for it

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      I was visiting NYC a couple of weeks ago and got an open container ticket. I had a brown paper bag on my hand and as the cop was approaching me, I disposed of it in the trash. I told him it was an energy drink but he didn't believe me and looked through the trash but didn't find it. He tried to make me admit it was alcohol but I still said it was an energy drink. He wouldn't let me go until I admitted it so I just basically said, how can I get out of this? and he proceeded to write me a ticket. All he put was "beer" but didn't put the brand or any other details. I came across another article the ticket should have the beer brand. I lost the ticket and cannot find it online. I called the summons office and they said it's not in the system yet. I don't live in NYC and don't plan to go to the hearing for a $25 fine. What are the chances this ticket can be dismissed by the court?

    • JasonStern profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Stern 

      2 years ago from New York

      This is not within the definition of the law but many police officers WILL attribute a nearby can or bottle of alcohol to the nearest person and it can be difficult to convince a judge that the police officer was lying. An excellent attorney is your best bet to fight such a case.

    • JasonStern profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Stern 

      2 years ago from New York

      It's highly unlikely to serve jail time for an open container violation; however, if someone fails to answer the summons and appear in court, a bench warrant can be issued and that may lead to an arrest and temporary incarceration until a defendant can see the judge (typically 24-48 hours).

    • JasonStern profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Stern 

      2 years ago from New York

      If you've lost your ticket and failed to appear in court, there may be an outstanding bench warrant for your arrest in the State of New York, which may come up on background and credit checks in other states. Please contact a law office to see if you have a bench warrant so we can resolve that and the underlying summons at the same time.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      I am from South Carolina. I visited NY in June, 2016. I got an open container ticket, but I have lost it. What do I do?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      My nephew was picked up on s bench warrant that's over 3 yesrs old for an open container

      He is arrested is he going too have too serve time forbthis

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Can police officers attribute a can of beer to you if it is next to or nearby you but you're not holding it or in possession of it? I was fined by a police officer after he found a can of beer nearby me (it was mine but I'm curious if he could ACTUALLY know it was mine and fine me for it).

    • JasonStern profile imageAUTHOR

      Jason Stern 

      6 years ago from New York

      The decision whether to disclose a non-criminal violation on a job application largely depends upon the wording of the question being asked. Many applications specifically exclude only 'traffic violations'. Others indicate that you must include all transgressions, including those which may have been sealed. This can be tricky because the law in New York states that a dismissed and sealed violation is deemed a nullity -- and therefore never happened in the eyes of the law. My advice is often to err on the side of disclosure, particularly where the violation itself is so minor and inoffensive as to be unlikely to prevent one's hiring. I believe this is the case with open container violations, and for that reason I recommend that clients disclose the violation (even if dismissed and sealed) when pointedly asked whether their past includes any citation, arrest or conviction. Good luck!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hello, I'm I applying for a flight attendant position and they will do an FBI background check. I stated on the application that I have never been arrested, committed any crimes or misdemeanors, or have parking tickets? They don't particularly ask about violations. But I did pay a $25 "open container" ticket in nyc, but didn't mention it on the application. Now, I'm wondering will this violation appear on my FBI 10 background check?, and maybe I should disclose this ticket to the company just in case, since it is minor? Thanks..


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)