Arizona Open Container Laws

Posted On February 16, 2023 Arizona Laws,Drunk Driving

Arizona has several laws pertaining to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, especially in public places and on roadways. One of these laws prohibits operating or riding as a passenger in a motor vehicle with an open container of alcohol in the car. Being caught with an open container in Arizona can result in hefty fines and even jail time, depending on the circumstances.

What Is Arizona’s Open Container Law?

According to Arizona Revised Statutes Section 4-251, it is unlawful for any person to consume spirituous liquor or possess an open container of spirituous liquor while operating or sitting within the passenger compartment of a motor vehicle on a public highway. The state’s definitions of the key terms found in this statute are as follows:

  • Motor vehicle: any vehicle that is driven or drawn using mechanical power and is designed for use on public highways.
  • Passenger compartment: the area of a motor vehicle designed to seat the driver and other passengers. This includes an unlocked glove box and any unlocked portable device that is within immediate reach of the driver or any passengers. It does not include the trunk or the area behind the last seat of a vehicle that does not have a trunk.
  • Open container: any type of container, bottle, can or receptacle that contains spirituous liquor and has been opened, meaning its seal has been broken or some of its contents have been removed. It can also refer to empty containers of alcohol.
  • Spirituous liquor: any beverage that contains at least 0.5 percent alcohol.

This law does not apply to the passengers of a bus, limousine or taxi while the vehicle is being used to provide transportation network services. It also does not apply to ride-sharing vehicles, such as Uber and Lyft. Finally, it does not apply to a passenger occupying the living quarters of a motorhome as defined in Section 28-4301 of the law.

What Are the Penalties for Driving With an Open Container in Arizona?

Arizona is known for having harsh penalties for drug and alcohol crimes. In an effort to make its roads safer and prevent drunk driving accidents, Arizona has strict driving under the influence (DUI) laws. It also imposes severe consequences for those who break the open container law. Violating Arizona’s open container law is a class 2 misdemeanor.

Being convicted of this crime could lead to penalties including:

  • Up to $750 in fines
  • Up to four months in jail
  • One-year license suspension for a second offense
  • Court-mandated alcohol counseling
  • Permanent criminal record

It is common for the police to conduct sobriety tests on a driver who is caught operating a motor vehicle with an open container. The presence of open and empty or partially empty alcoholic beverage containers could be used as evidence against a driver in a DUI case. A driver in Arizona will still receive an open container ticket even if he or she was not consuming any alcohol or was not intoxicated, however.

Defenses to Arizona’s Open Container Law

If you have been ticketed for driving a vehicle with an open container of alcohol in Arizona, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to discuss your defense. Your type of vehicle or specific situation may have made you an exception to Arizona’s open container law, for example, or someone else in your vehicle may have been responsible for the open container rather than you. A criminal defense lawyer can help you achieve the best possible case outcome, whether this is reduced charges, case dismissal, or a plea deal.