While most drivers in Arizona know that they cannot drink and drive, some might be unaware that they also are prohibited from having open containers of alcohol in their vehicles. If you are stopped by the police and have an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, you can be charged with violating the state’s prohibition against having an open container of alcohol in your car. It is not a defense to a charge of having an open container that you were not drinking alcohol from it at the time.
It also does not matter that you are of a legal age to possess and consume alcohol. An open container conviction may come with serious penalties. If you have been charged with a violation of the state’s open container laws, the attorneys at DM Cantor may be able to defend you against the charge.
What are the Open Container Laws in Arizona?
In Arizona, having an open container of alcohol in your vehicle is prohibited under A.R.S. § 4-251. Under this statute, you cannot have an open container of alcohol inside your vehicle’s passenger compartment. An open container includes any bottle or can of an alcoholic beverage that has had its seal broken or some of the beverage removed, including wine, spirits, beer, mixed drinks, or malt liquor. The law does not prohibit transporting unopened bottles of alcohol that you have purchased at a store or have been given by friends as long as their seals are not broken. However, if you go out to a fine-dining establishment and order a bottle of wine, you can be charged with an open container of alcohol violation if you subsequently transport the remaining wine home in your car after dinner.
If you are charged and convicted of a violation of the open container law, it is a class 2 misdemeanor. Under A.R.S. § 13-707, you may face a sentence to jail of up to four months. Under A.R.S. § 802, you can also face a fine of up to $750 for a class 2 misdemeanor conviction in Arizona. A conviction for violating the state’s open container law means that you would have a criminal record, which could also cause other problems for you at your job or with finding a job that you want.
What if a Passenger in Ride-Share like Uber or Lyft?
Arizona’s open container law does include some exceptions. The rule does not apply to people who are in the living areas of motor homes. It also does not apply to passengers in taxis, limousines, or a transportation network company vehicle. In A.R.S. § 28-9551, a transportation network company is defined as a company that has been licensed by the state of Arizona to connect passengers and vehicles with rides over a digital network. This would include ride-share services like Uber, Lyft, and any others that have been licensed by the state to offer ride-share services, which would mean that you should not be charged with violating the state’s open container law if you transport an opened bottle of alcohol home while you are taking a ride in an Uber or Lyft vehicle.
If you are an Uber or Lyft driver, you also should not face charges for violating the state’s open container law if one of your passengers has an open container in his or her possession while you are using the service. If you a ride-share driver and have been cited for an open container, contact our defense attorneys immediately.