What do I do if I got an "open container of alcohol" citation in Madison, WI?

Asked over 1 year ago - Madison, WI

I got a "Wisconsin Uniform Municipal Court Citation and Complaint" about "passing an open container of alcohol on public street" and required to pay $300 or appear in court. I'm 22 and I went to a bar for the very first time with friends and walked out with a half full cup of cranberry vodka. I was COMPLETELY unaware of any rule against having an open container in public. My friends didn't tell me, the bartenders who saw me walk out didn't tell me, the bouncer who saw me didn't tell me. Outside an officer was closely watching the bar and saw me and gave me the citation. I want to plead not guilty.

I can't afford a lawyer, do I need one? Can I get a public defender for free? This is my first time getting any citation or court appearance, I just want this dismissed with a warning.

Additional information

I just checked my ticket and noticed that it said I had a open container on a public street, but I know for a fact I was NEVER on a public street. Also the Officer was completely wrong on the time it happened, he put down PM when it happened AM. How can I use this to help me?

Also, I just went to the local municipal office and asked them if I can have a public defender, and they said that they don't allow public defender for these types of things. I can still hire a lawyer at my own expense, but I already know I can't afford one. So I'll just have to explain the judge what happened and hope for a deal.

Attorney answers (3)

  1. Jason Todd Studinski

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . If you want a lawyer and cannot afford one, one may be appointed in a criminal case. If you want to fight this ticket, you should plead "not guilty" and get "discovery" from the prosecution. It may be that you can negotate a deal with the DA that would be acceptable to you. You may want to consult with a local lawyer for more specific guidance. Good luck.

  2. Jeffrey J. Szczewski

    Contributor Level 15

    Answered . A municipal citation is not criminal, so a public defender will NOT be appointed.

  3. Walter A. Piel Jr.

    Contributor Level 6

    Answered . Because this is a municipal charge, you have no right to a public defender. The guaranteed right to an attorney applies in criminal cases only. You may want to consider entering a not guilty plea and then trying to negotiate this matter with the City Attorney. While I do not necessarily suggest doing this without an attorney, if you are unable to afford an attorney, it would be best to still attempt to strike a deal with the municipal prosecutor before you go before the judge. In many instances, you can achieve a negotiated resolution. Be aware prosecutors tend to always want their "pound of flesh" so you will probably not walk away from this with an outright dismissal.

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