Alcohol

Arizona's Open Container Laws: Public Places

Open container laws are laws that restrict where people may drink alcohol in public.

What are Arizona’s open container laws regarding public places?

Under Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 4-244, it is unlawful for any person to “consume spirituous liquor in a public place, thoroughfare, or gathering.”

This rule does not apply to the sale of spirituous liquors “on the premises of and by an on-sale retailer” or to “a person consuming beer from a broken package in a public recreation area or on private property with permission of the owner or lessor or on the walkways surrounding such private property or to a person consuming beer or wine from a broken package in a public recreation area as part of a special event or festival that is conducted under a license.”

Under the same statute, A.R.S. § 4-244, it is also unlawful for a licensee or employee “to knowingly permit spirituous liquor to be removed from the licensed premises, except in the original unbroken package.”

However, this rule does not apply to a person who takes a bottle of wine from a bar or restaurant that has been partially consumed “in conjunction with a purchased meal,” so long as “a cork is inserted flush with the top of the bottle or the bottle is otherwise securely closed.”

In some states, open container laws are permanently relaxed in specific locations, such as on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada and in the French Quarter of New Orleans in Louisiana. However, Arizona has no such exceptions. Except during specially licensed events, having an open container in Old Town Scottsdale or on Mill Avenue in Tempe, for example, may lead to criminal charges.

What are “public places”?

Public places are places such as streets, alleys, sidewalks, transit stations, schoolyards, squares, and parks to which members of the public generally enjoy unrestricted access. Other examples of public places where open container laws apply include the common areas and entrances of apartment complexes and mobile home parks.

In the absence of a special event license issued pursuant to A.R.S. § 4-203.02 or A.R.S. § 4-203.03, it is unlawful to have an open container in such places.

What is an “open container”?

An “open container” is an open container of alcohol. Examples of “open containers” include uncapped beer bottles, red solo cups, half-filled but closed bottles of vodka, tequila, rum, or any other spirit, and even improperly re-corked bottles of wine.

A.R.S. § 4-251 defines an open container as any bottle, can, jar, glass, or other receptacle “that contains spirituous liquor and that has been opened, has had its seal broken or the contents of which have been partially removed.”

Does it matter if the open container is empty?

It depends. The federal rule, at 23 U.S. Code § 154, defines an open container as either (1) any receptacle from which the alcoholic contents have been partially removed or (2) any receptacle that is open or has a broken seal and “contains any amount of alcoholic beverage.”

So unless the bottle, can, jar, glass, or other receptacle has been thoroughly washed and dried, it may still contain a trace of alcohol and therefore count as an open container.

Does it matter whether or not the person with an open container in a public place is intoxicated?

No. The criminal offense is having the open container in a public place. It makes no difference whatsoever whether or not the person has consumed any alcohol from the container.

What are the consequences of a conviction for having an open container?

Here in Arizona, if a person is convicted of having an open container of alcohol in a public place, the result is a Class 2 misdemeanor.

A Class 2 misdemeanor is a criminal offense that carries a fine of up to $750 pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-802 as well as a possible jail sentence of up to four months pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-707. Two years probation is another possibility pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-902.

Resources

23 U.S. Code § 154: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/23/154

Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 4-244: https://www.azleg.gov/ars/4/00244.htm

Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) § 4-251: https://www.azleg.gov/ars/4/00251.htm

National Conference of State Legislators – “Open Container and Open Consumption of Alcohol State Statutes”: http://www.ncsl.org/research/financial-services-and-commerce/open-container-and-consumption-statutes.aspx

This website has been prepared for general information purposes only. The information on this website is not legal advice. Legal advice is dependent upon the specific circumstances of each situation. Also, the law may vary from state-to-state or county-to-county, so that some information in this website may not be correct for your situation. Finally, the information contained on this website is not guaranteed to be up to date. Therefore, the information contained in this website cannot replace the advice of competent legal counsel licensed in your jurisdiction.

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