Like most states, Arizona takes drinking and driving seriously. Driving while impaired can have deadly consequences as well as stiff legal penalties. Arizona also seeks to limit the risk of drunk drivers on the roadways by prohibiting open containers of alcohol in vehicles. You do not have to be intoxicated in order to face charges for driving with an open container. It’s also still illegal to carry it with you in a vehicle if it’s open but you aren’t drinking it.
It’s important for residents and visitors to Arizona to fully understand the state’s open container laws and the penalties for violating these critical safeguards.
For the legal purpose of enforcing Arizona’s open container law, an alcoholic beverage is defined as any beverage with .5% alcohol or greater. While mixers and most non-alcoholic beer are allowed under this definition, it effectively excludes beer, wine, mixed drinks, and distilled spirits (hard alcohol).
Arizona conforms to the federal guidelines put in place by the U.S. Department of Transportation; guidelines that all but 14 states follow. According to the law, any bottle, can, or jar with a broken seal, any container with a portion missing, or a glass or cup (such as the familiar red cup) containing an alcoholic beverage falls under the umbrella of an “open container.” It’s illegal to have anything qualifying as an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a car or the cab of a truck, even if the driver isn’t partaking. Open containers are illegal for both drivers and passengers.
If you bring leftovers home from a restaurant and they include a partly consumed bottle of wine, you may transport the bottle only if the cork is reapplied and flush with the bottleneck. If the bottle is a screw-top or you are unsure of the legality of transporting it, it’s best to place it in the trunk of the car. Arizona law does not prohibit transporting, full, unopened containers of alcoholic beverages.
If a police officer pulls over a driver with an open container, the driver faces a class-2 misdemeanor for the infraction.
If you’re pulled over by a police officer in Arizona and found to have an open container in the passenger area of your vehicle, the penalties for this class-2 misdemeanor include a fine of $750 and up to four months of jail time. It’s important to understand the ramifications of this penalty and its consequences for your permanent record. This penalty applies even if you weren’t drinking from the open container at all and were not impaired at the time you were pulled over. The penalties and impacts on your record still apply when a passenger in your vehicle was the one drinking and you were not. Contact a Glendale DUI attorney for legal counsel.
Open container violations often go hand-in-hand with DUI charges. If a law enforcement officer finds an open container in your vehicle, it’s grounds for field sobriety and breathalyzer testing. Failing sobriety tests means a driver is subject to very serious charges of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Drivers may transport open containers of alcoholic beverages on Arizona roadways if the bottle is placed into the trunk of the car. For vehicles without a trunk, drivers can legally transport open containers of alcohol out of reach behind the last row of seating.
Passengers in limousines, taxis, Uber/Lyft vehicles, and tour buses may legally carry open containers and consume alcohol. Also, passengers riding in the living area of a motor home may consume alcohol and open containers are legal when stored in the cabinets or refrigerator of a motor home.
If you’ve been charged with violating Arizona’s open container law, remember that the state must prove its case against you beyond a doubt. A skilled DUI attorney in Glendale can help you understand your rights and find the best defense to use in your case.