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What are the consequences of an open container arrest?

Worcester, MA |

Me and some friends were in a parking lot at what amounts to a tailgate when we were approached by a police officer. We had beers in unmarked cups and were cooperative when the officer questioned us. Despite being a normal act in Worcester we were arrested and must appear in court. What are the ramifications of this action? Do we need lawyers? We were completely cooperative and were not disturbing the peace, or being disruptive in any way. None of us have prior arrests or even traffic tickets.

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Attorney answers 2


You should be able to get this dismissed upon court costs as long as no one upset the police. when you go to court, dress respectively and be courtous and humble. If they do not offer to dismiss the charges then you should contact an attorney. Our office can help you but first see what they offer. I wouldn't worry too much.


A conviction for open container carries a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $500. That everybody does it is not a defense. It is unfortunate that you were arrested, as this will cause the charge to appear on your criminal record regardless of how you resolve the case. These types of cases are usually resolved upon payment of a fine or court costs.

You may, however, have a motion to dismiss. General Laws ch. 90. s. 24l(b) states, "Whoever, upon any way or in any place to which the public has a right of access, or upon any way or in any place to which members of the public have access as invitees or licensees, possesses an open container of alcoholic beverage IN THE PASSENGER AREA of any motor vehicle shall be punished by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500. ".

“Passenger area,” is defined as "the area designed to seat the driver and passengers while the motor vehicle is in operation and any area that is readily accessible to the driver or a passenger while in a seated position including, but not limited to, the glove compartment; provided, however, that the passenger area shall NOT include a motor vehicle’s trunk or a locked glove compartment or, if a motor vehicle is not equipped with a trunk, the area behind the last upright seat or an area not normally occupied by the driver or passenger".

Maybe the open containers were outside the "passenger compartment". While you could have been charged with drinking in public, the proper procedure would be to dismiss the open container charge and refile the proper charge.

Good luck,

This reply is intended for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney-client relationship with any reader. Attorney Dominic L. Pang is a Massachusetts licensed attorney and the information in this response is meant to apply to Massachusetts law only. The answer to this question should not be used as a substitute for personalized legal advice.

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