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Salt Lake Open Container Defense - Utah Criminal Lawyer

Having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle can result in criminal charges punishable by jail time and substantial fines. If you are facing prosecution for open container or other criminal charges in Salt Lake, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help give you the best chance of success in defending your rights. Stephen Howard has successfully protected his clients' rights in thousands of felony and misdemeanor cases. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

Elements of a Salt Lake Open Container Alcohol Charge

Utah's open container laws apply both to the driver and to passengers in a motor vehicle. Although drivers are the individuals who are most often charged in Salt Lake criminal cases, passengers who are found in possession of an open container of alcohol may also be criminally charged.

Criminal Defense Attorney Salt LakeA person may also be charged for "allowing" another person to possess, carry, or transport an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle. Thus, a driver who allows a passenger to bring an open beer can, wine bottle, etc. into the vehicle's passenger compartment can also be criminally prosecuted.

An "open" container of alcohol is defined under the statute as any container which has had the seal broken or has had its contents partially consumed. This can include a bottle, can, or any other container that actually contains an alcoholic beverage. A container that is completely empty will not support a violation of the Utah open container law.

Utah's open container laws apply whether the vehicle is being driven or is parked and immobile. But the open container prohibitions apply only to the passenger compartment of the vehicle. The vehicle's passenger compartment is considered to include any areas that are accessible to either the driver or passengers while traveling, and include glove boxes or other utility compartments. The passenger compartment does not include a trunk or other areas that are not accessible to the driver or passengers while inside the vehicle.

There is a split of opinion as to whether the rear cargo area of an SUV is considered to be a part of the passenger compartment. Some police officers have declined to cite a driver for open containers found in an SUV's cargo area. But in most SUV's, the cargo area can be accesses by a rear-seat passenger. Thus, a person carrying an open container of alcohol in an SUV cargo area faces potential criminal prosecution.

Penalties for an Open Container Charge in Salt Lake

Open container charges in Utah are typically filed at the class C misdemeanor level. This charge is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and substantial potential fines. A judge also has the option of placing a defendant on probation rather than imposing the full jail sentence. Conditions of probation may include substance abuse counseling, community service, payment of fines, and other requirements found by the court to be appropriate.

Finding a Salt Lake Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal Lawyer Salt LakeStephen Howard is a Utah criminal defense attorney based in Salt Lake City. He has extensive experience defending both felony and misdemeanor charges in Utah. He has a record of achieving real results for his clients.

If you are facing prosecution for an open container charge or other criminal charges in Salt Lake City or elsewhere in Utah, contact us today to schedule an initial attorney consultation.


Can I carry empty beer cans or wine bottles in my car to be recycled?

A person who is carrying EMPTY beer cans or wine bottles to a recycling facility should not face criminal prosecution under Utah's open container statute. Utah Code 41-6a-526 prohibits the transportation, carrying, possession, etc. of "any container which contains any alcoholic beverage" if the container has been opened. The key element here is that the open container must actually contain some alcohol. If the bottles, cans, etc., are completely empty, then transporting such containers in the passenger compartment of a vehicle should not result in criminal open container charges.

Note, however, that Utah's criminal statutes change from time to time. And the interpretation and application of any criminal statute can depend on subtle differences in the facts of a given case. The information contained in this website should not be construed as legal advice. Instead, consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.

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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

The materials in this website are intended for informational purposes only, and are not legal advice. Viewing or responding to materials in this site does not create an attorney-client relationship. Read Full Disclaimer.