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Open Container - Alcohol Charges - Utah Criminal Lawyer

Utah law places strict rules on how alcohol may be used or possessed in a motor vehicle. Drinking alcohol inside a motor vehicle, whether the vehicle is being driven or parked, is a criminal offense. Possessing or transporting an open container of alcohol can also result in criminal charges. Defending criminal charges in Utah requires an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If you are facing criminal prosecution for an open container or other criminal charges, contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with Utah criminal attorney Stephen Howard. Based in Salt Lake City, Mr. Howard provides legal services to clients throughout Utah.

Elements of an Open Container Alcohol Charge in Utah

Utah Open Container Defense LawyerWhether you are the driver or a passenger, whether the vehicle is parked and stationary or being actively driven, you may find yourself facing criminal charges if police find an open container of alcohol in a car, truck, van, or other motor vehicle. This Utah criminal charge does not require proof that you consumed any alcohol while in the vehicle. Instead, the charge simply requires proof that the container was "open." A container of alcohol is considered to be "open" if its seal has been broken or its contents have been partially consumed.

A common misconception relating to this Utah law is that the statute prohibits the transportation of any open container of alcohol.  In fact, an open container of alcohol may be lawfully transported in a vehicle, so long as it is not carried or transported in the vehicle's "passenger compartment." In common terms, this means that you may lawfully carry or transport an open container of aclohol in your vehicle's trunk. Because the storage areas of most SUV's and minivans is accessible from the passenger compartment of the vehicle, these areas are not suitable for the lawful transportation of an open container of alcohol.

Utah's open container law (section 41-6a-426 of the Utah Code) also provides that it is a crime for either a driver or a passenger to drink any alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle (whether moving, stopped, or parked on the side of the road). Since it may be hard to imagine how a person might drink alcohol from an unopened container, this provision of the law may be somewhat reduntant with the "open container" provisions of the same statute. Nevertheless, the Utah legislature has made it clear that a crime can be charged for either consuming alcohol in a vehicle or possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

Consequences of Conviction for an Open Container Charge in Utah

A criminal charge for having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle in Utah is typically classified as a class C misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, and a fine plus surcharge of up to $1,425.

Criminal cases involving open container charges are also often accompanied by charges for DUI or being drunk in or about a vehicle. Either of these charges can increase the potential penalties substantially.

Finding a Criminal Defense Attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerBased in Salt Lake City, criminal defense attorney Stephen Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah. He has a track record of achieving real results for clients. If you are facing prosecution in Utah for possession of an open container of alcohol or other criminal charges, you deserve to have an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer on your side.

Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation.


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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

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