Now that spring break has started for many, plenty of drinking will be happening at barbecues, picnics, and parties. However, it’s important to remember to leave the beer or wine behind while driving to and from the party.
Arizona is one of 43 states that has laws banning the operation of a motor vehicle with an open container of alcohol in the car. Although the penalties for open container offenses are generally not as harsh as those for DUI offenses, open container violations often carry hefty fines and even the possibility of jail time.
Under Arizona law, it’s illegal to “possess an open container of spirituous liquor within the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle that is located on any public highway or right-of-way of a public highway” in the state.” That means that the driver and the passengers are prohibited from having an open container in the car. If an open container is found anywhere within the passenger compartment, the driver will be charged with the violation regardless of who brought the container into the car.
Violating the open container law is a Class 2 misdemeanor. If found guilty of an open container violation, a person can be fined up to $750 and spend up to 4 months in jail. Arizona’s penalties for an open container conviction are much tougher than those of most other states, where offenders generally get away with no more than a fine.
There are a few exceptions to the law, however. It’s perfectly legal to have an open container while riding as a passenger in a bus, limousine, or taxi.
If you finish dinner with half a bottle of wine left, remember to cork it and put it in the trunk for the ride home. If the open container is completely out of passengers’ reach, it probably isn’t a violation of Arizona’s open container law.