DUI cases can sometimes invite interesting concepts into law – maybe even concepts you have never heard of before. When you think of ‘open container laws,’ you may think of them in terms of driving, but the truth is that they take place everywhere, from streets to parks. Open container laws exist for many reasons, but the main reasons are to discourage public drunkenness and secure federal transportation funding that relies on the existence of these laws.
In many jurisdictions across the country, open container laws apply to public sidewalks, apartment buildings, residential neighborhoods, school properties, and more. In California, open container laws are put in place to prohibit a person from driving with an alcoholic beverage in their car that has been opened. The drink does not have to be consumed to count. In California, this crime is an infraction that could be punished with a fine of $250 or more, but if you are caught with a passenger under 21 with an open container, you could see six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.
In many states across the country, to be in violation of an open container law while driving, the open container must have been located or within reach of the person while they were driving. Usually, an officer doesn’t even have to prove that the driver was drinking to be able to cite the infraction. Sometimes, open container laws go hand in hand with DUIs, as somebody pulled over may have received a DUI already when the open container is found.
Can You Defend Against This Charge?
Yes, there are defenses that you can attempt to bring in these cases. You could use the defense that the alcohol was in your trunk, that you were in a “hired” car at the time of the incident, that there was no probable cause for you to be stopped in the first place, or an illegal search and seizure helped the police discover your open container of alcohol. We can address your legal needs in the line of your crime and help you reach the defense that works for your case. If you need our help, give us a call today.