This is part of our NYCurious series, where we answer your burning questions about the city. Ask yours here.
Hot summer days at the beach may make you want to crack open a cold beer or sip on a cocktail, but before you do, you should brush up on the city’s open container laws.
Here’s a look at what could happen if you’re caught with alcohol on the beach.
Is drinking alcohol on a New York City beach legal?
No, drinking alcohol is illegal in all public spaces in the city, including beaches.
Will you get arrested for drinking alcohol on the beach?
Probably not. If you’re caught with an open container of alcohol, you’ll likely receive a civil court summons with a fine of up to $25, rather than a criminal court summons.
That’s because of legislation passed by the City Council in May 2016 that made civil court summons the preferred consequence for low-level, non-violent offenses, including having an open container of alcohol, littering and public urination. Since the law took effect in June 2017, police officers have been directed to issue civil tickets as the default approach.
But there are some exceptions, including if the person caught with an open container has “three or more unanswered civil summonses” in the past eight years, has two or more felony arrests in the past two years or is on parole or probation, according to a New York Times article.
Additionally, penalties increase if the person is endangering themself or others.
What’s the difference between a civil court summons and a criminal court summons?
When you get a civil court summons, you won’t get a permanent criminal record like you would for a criminal court summons. People who receive a civil ticket can pay the fine or challenge it at a hearing at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.
Failure to appear at civil court won’t result in a warrant like failure to appear in criminal court, but it could impact the person’s credit if they don’t pay the fine.
Where is it legal to drink alcohol outside in New York City?
New Yorkers can drink outside at permitted block parties or licensed restaurants and bars with outdoor seating.