This is by far the most common phone call that I receive in the fall, and usually during or after a football weekend. I hear from alumni who were back in town visiting, doctors, lawyers, moms, dads, fans of the opposing team, and people of every age, race and occupation. It all begins with the same phone call or email:
“This is ___________, I received a ticket for open container in Ann Arbor. I was tailgating/walking around with friends/going from one house to another, and the police stopped me, and told me I can’t walk around with a beer”
The client then sometimes tells me they are from out of town, and they need to be in court in 10-14 days, and they don’t know what to do.
The first thing I tell this client is that this ticket is a misdemeanor crime, and they need to call a timeout. Some potential clients are looking to get it over with as soon as possible; I tell these clients that if they plead guilty they will have a criminal record. Many people are shocked as this offense doesn’t seem like a big deal or back home this isn’t against the law. It’s a huge wakeup call, and usually puts the client into panic mode.
I handle these cases in the same manner as I do other cases; we’re proactive from day one. Although the case seems minor, we still need to treat is as major in the short term to avoid a long-term criminal record. I usually want to know everything I can about my client’s career, and I request they send me a resume. I discuss issues they could have with a criminal record with their career, and we make a plan to have the misdemeanor dismissed. My clients cannot afford any other outcome for their job.
If my client is from the area, we attend court together; if my client is from out of town, I can usually work with the prosecutor and judge to have my client excused from court. If my client follows my lead with my proactive program, I can typically workout a dismissal with the judge and prosecutor, and keep a clean criminal record for my client.
If you’re charged with with an open container offense in Ann Arbor, the prosecutor will usually be the City of Ann Arbor, and the judge will usually be Judge Easthope. Your case may be set with the magistrate at first, but we waive this court date, and get you a real court date where we can execute our plan, and have the case dismissed.
When we work together, you will no longer need to report to the courthouse within the 10-14 days listed on your ticket, because my attorney paperwork with satisfy this condition, and you will avoid a bench warrant. I will be able to take over all communication with the prosecutor and the judge, and we will formulate a comprehensive plan, set goals, and reach those goals together.
Another type of open intoxicant case happens in your vehicle. It is illegal in Michigan to have an open container in a vehicle. This is a misdemeanor offense, which can be found in the traffic code, and it cannot be expunged or dismissed as the original charge due to it being a traffic offense.
Anytime you combine a vehicle and alcohol, the next thought is drunk driving. Even if you haven’t drank the beer, or you have, but you’re under the legal limit, it only means the cops caught you in time before anything worse happened. This is exactly how a prosecutor and judge will view your case. We’re proactive from day, and fill in all the unknowns with positive action.
We acknowledge that the case could have turned into a DUI, and combining alcohol use and a car are dangerous. It does not matter what the truth is, it’s about the perception from the judge and prosecutor, which we’re addressing. If we’re proactive and address all possible concerns, we can usually work to a dismissal of charges, and no criminal record.
Attorney Jonathan Paul is a former New York City and Michigan Prosecutor, and a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. Mr. Paul has been featured in Hour Magazine, and the New York Times for his selection in Super Lawyers Magazine. Based on past client reviews, Mr. Paul has also earned me a “Superb” 10.0 Avvo Rating.