What are the potential effects of open container violations on DWI Charges?

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What are the potential effects of open container violations on DWI Charges?

There is a court decision on a Rochester DWI / DUI case that had an interesting twist: the open container of alcohol alleged to be in the defendant's car saved him from a DWI conviction. You might think that an open container of alcohol would seal his fate, but it didn't. The story goes something like this:

P. Adam Militello, Esq.
P. Adam Militello, Esq.

Police were patrolling I-590 late one night when they came upon a car pulled over to the side of the road. A man was in the driver seat, and the car was off. When the police officer looked into the car, he saw that sitting next to the man was a nearly-empty bottle of vodka.

The police officer asked the suspect if he had been driving, and the man said, "yes."

The police officer asked if the suspect had been drinking, and the man said, "yes."

The suspect was arrested, and charged with DWI. He consented to a BAC Datamaster test that resulted in a BAC reading over the legal limit.

At trial, the defendant's attorney asked the arresting officer if he saw the defendant driving on the night of the arrest, and the officer's answer was "no." Defense counsel also asked if the arresting officer knew how long the defendant had been parked along side of the expressway, and the officer did not know. Evidence came in about the open container of alcohol, and about the defendant's alleged BAC. The prosecution rested their case, and then the defense attorney called the defendant to the stand.

The defendant was asked if he was drinking that night, and he said, "Yes, after I pulled over to the side of the road. I was so upset about breaking up with my girlfriend, and so tired from everything that had happened, that I pulled over to the side of the road, turned off the car, and started drinking."

In that one answer, the defendant raised reasonable doubt about whether he had been Driving While Intoxicated. There was no doubt that he had been driving, and there was no doubt that he had been drinking, but there was uncontroverted testimony that the defendant had not been driving after he consumed alcohol.

The result? "Not guilty of DWI."

If you are facing a DWI charge in Rochester or one of the surrounding counties, contact us at The Militello Law Firm for a free telephone consultation and case evaluation. Our phone number is (585) 485-0025.

The Militello Law Firm
2480 Browncroft Boulevard
Rochester, New York 14625
Phone: (585) 485-0025 Fax: (585) 286-3128