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Driving with an open container in your car in Arizona

Posted on January 21, 2020 in Firm News

Driving with an open container in your car in Arizona

In Arizona, being caught driving with an open container in your car is a big deal. Having an open container of alcohol within your vehicle even if you are not drinking it while driving, is illegal and can lead to being convicted of a misdemeanor offense.  Arizona Revised Statutes § 4-251, states that if you are convicted of violating the open container lawthis will result in you having Class 2 Misdemeanor on your record.  The consequences of being convicted of this offense are quite serious and the penalties can be up to 4 months in jail, a fine of up to $750, and up to 2 years of probation.  Arizona currently does not have expungement available therefore a conviction of this offense can affect you long termas you will be marked with a criminal record. Having a criminal record can lead to difficulties obtaining work, loans, licenses, and more.

How can I be convicted of driving with an open container?

To be charged and convicted of this open container offense, the State must demonstrate that you either (1) consumed alcohol while operating or within the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle that was located on a public highway or right-of-way of a public highway; or (2) possessed an open container of alcohol within the passenger compartment of a motorvehicle that was located on any public highway or right-of-way of a public highway.

This implies that, an “open container” doesn’t mean literally an open container however can incorporate any container that has alcohol in it and “has been opened, has had its seal broken or the contents of which have been partially removed.” Additionally, this also means that consumption of the alcohol while driving or before drivingis not required to be charged and convicted of this class 2 misdemeanor, merely possessing an open container in your vehicle while driving is enough for you to be convicted.

For example, if you are pulled over for any reason and you have a bottle of wine that you got corked at a restaurant during dinner and it is in the passenger compartment, you can be charged with an open container.

The passenger compartment of a vehicle is defined as any area of a motor vehicle including designed for the seating of the driver and other passengers of the vehicle an unlocked glove compartment and any unlocked portable devices within the immediate reach of the driver or any passengers. It is important to note that this law does not apply to open containersin a locked glove compartment, truck, bed of a truck or if the car doesn’t have a trunk, the area behind the last seat of the car.

If you are pulled over and the officers are citing you for an open container violation, it is almost certain that they will also request you to perform a field sobriety test that allegedly determines your level of sobriety. Therefore, we often see open container charges accompanied with the more serious crime of a DUI. Additionally, it is against the law toconsume alcohol in public for example on the sidewalk on a public street, while being caught drinking alcohol in public usually results in a public consumption citation from police officers, occasionally we see them use an open container citation for this offense.

What if a passenger of my vehicle is in possession of an open container of alcohol?

The restriction of possessing an open container of alcohol or consuming alcohol applies to all persons in a motor-vehicle, within the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle that is located on any public highway or right-of-way of a public highway in this state therefore if you are driving and a friend in the front seat of your car is drinking a beer and youare pulled over, both you and your friend can receive a citation for an open container in your vehicle.

The exceptions of the open container law

There are exceptions to this law regarding passengers with open containers of in certain types of vehicles. You cannot be charged with the open container offense and this law does not apply to a passenger in a bus, limousine, taxi and “transportation network company” for example ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. This recent addendum to the law inArizona to include the exception for passengers to a “transportation network company” has been the result of a huge surge in the popularity and use of ridesharing apps. Under Arizona Revised Statute § 28-9551 , A “transportation network company” is defined as an entity that has been issued a permit to operate in the state and uses a digital network orsoftware application to connect passengers to transportation network services and that may but is not deemed to own, operate or control a personal motor vehicle of a transportation network company driver – basically this is referring to r ridesharing companies that are licensed to operate in the state, most commonly known ones like Uber and Lyft.

The law also does not apply to a passenger in the living quarters of a motor home.

Legal Representation for open container charges is important

If you are charged with a violation of the open container law, then you need representation. Arizona currently does not have expungement available therefore a conviction of this offense can affect you long term as you it will give you a lifelong record. Having a criminal record can lead to difficulties obtaining work, loans, licenses, and more. In addition toa criminal record, a conviction of this crime can lead to jail, and fines, along with collateral consequences, and is not something that you should face on your own.  Our experienced, aggressive criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations for Open Container cases; call today 480-248-7666or contact us online to schedule one today.

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