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More ammunition for beating prosecutions for open alcohol containers

Sep 25, 2009 More ammunition for beating prosecutions for open alcohol containers

Too often, defendants all too eagerly plead guilty to possessing an open container of alcohol, whether it be beer, vodka, wine, or any other alcohol-containing beverage, whether that be to minimize the fine or other sentencing exposure, particularly when they are unrepresented by an attorney.

Whether this is a jailable offense (as in the District of Columbia) or non-jailable offense (as in Maryland), prosecutors still have the full burden of proof, even if the seized container says Budweiser on it.

Praised be the D.C. Court of Appeals for reversing a prosecution for possession of an open container of alcohol ("POCA" – it sounds like a dance one does to cheesy accordion music) where the prosecution failed to present evidence to establish that the seized cup containing vodka (in the Defendant’s words) had at least 0.5 percent alcohol. Reid v. D.C., ___ A.2d ___ (D.C., Sept. 13, 2009). The prosecution got stuck with the D.C. Code’s 0.5 percent definition of alcohol.

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