Sierra Vista, AZ asked in Criminal Law for Arizona

Q: What should i do with an open container charge? Pulled over for failure to stop and had open container in car.

Wasn't drunk passed all test no breathalyzer given. Just plead guilty and pay the fines? What could it be pleaded down to?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Stewart Salwin
Stewart Salwin
PREMIUM
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Scottsdale, AZ
  • Licensed in Arizona

A: As you are probably already aware, violation of Arizona's open container law (A.R.S. 4-251) is a class 2 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $750 and up to 4 months in jail. As a practical matter, I have not seen a violation of the open container law result in jail time, but it is technically possible. The biggest issue long-term for you will probably be a conviction on your criminal record.

No attorney on here, however, would be able to advise you on whether you should accept a plea agreement offered by a prosecutor with only knowing the charges. In order to provide competent representation, an attorney would need to speak with you about the details of your case and read the DR (police report). The attorney could then determine the strength of the state's case against you and whether you have any defenses to the charge (e.g., Where was the container located in the vehicle? Where was your vehicle located when the container was found--was it on a public highway? Was there any alcohol in the container?). Then, the attorney could attempt to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor or take the case to trial (again depending on the facts and whether there is a good defense and the favorability of the plea deal being offered).

If what you are asking is whether you should plea guilty at the arraignment, then usually the answer is going to be no. Most people benefit from an initial "not guilty" plea so that they can then have the opportunity to negotiate for a plea deal with the prosecutor. You can usually always enter in a plea deal later, or even if the prosecutor refuses to offer a plea deal you can still go back to the judge and "plea to the court" by accepting responsibility for all the charges.

Zachary Divelbiss agrees with this answer

Zachary Divelbiss
Zachary Divelbiss
Answered
  • Criminal Law Lawyer
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Licensed in Arizona

A: I agree with Stewart's answer.

To add some more information. There is typically a benefit of hiring a lawyer to seeking a plea deal that allows you to take an alcohol course in exchange for getting the case dismissed. This will save you some money and protect your criminal record. If you haven't already, I strongly recommend hiring a lawyer in order to protect your future criminal record.

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