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SamIAm's avatar

Open container citation in San Francisco?

Asked by SamIAm (8690points) March 21st, 2010

I was walking in the Tenderloin with 2 friends on Thursday and we had open beers in brown paper bags. 2 cops stopped us and they claim it was to tell my friend to put her camera away due to the bad nature of the neighborhood but then they made us take our beers out of the bags and gave us citations. We think it was because we looked like tourists and being that the state is in the shitter, they assumed they could get money from us. I gather that it is illegal to drink in public even if you cannot see the container, although I thought it was okay. It’s bullshit. We weren’t even drunk and had JUST opened the beers a block away. Is this a violation of our rights?

Does anyone know how much an open container citation fine costs? Is it worth it to show up at court and fight it? Does the whole “if the officer doesn’t show, the citation is thrown out” rule apply for this? Also, my friend was visiting from NY – what happens if she doesn’t pay the fine (they have her ID information and that she was staying at my residence, but can’t she easily claim someone stole her ID?) ? I’ve done some research but would like your opinions because you guys always come through :)

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20 Answers

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

You cant have open containers out in public in SF.
Open container won’t set you back that far but you’ll want to take care of it ASAP.
Secondly, don’t hang out in the Tenderloin too much.

faye's avatar

Booze in a brown paper bag? Isn’t that just saying ‘come and get me’? We’d get tickets in Canada for sure! I would just pay it and be done.

missingbite's avatar

You fell for an old trick. They had no right to ask you what was in the bag but once you showed them, it’s all on you. You should have politely told them it was none of their business what you were drinking. They would have found a way to get you anyway but that’s another topic. You were breaking the law.

davidbetterman's avatar

Brown bagging it…LOL…the way to do it is McDonald’s cups with lids and straws!

Trillian's avatar

Did you take the can out to take a drink or did you bunch the bag down? If you were breaking the law, what rights do you feel pertained?

SamIAm's avatar

no the cans were in the bag the whole time, not visibly beer. the question about my rights is in regard to the fact that we were intimidated by being asked to take the beers out. we of course did but did we have to? it is after the fact and i certainly learned my lesson – that’s not the issue.

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

You could’ve said no which would’ve given them probable cause to search you.
You need to remember you were in the Tenderloin where there are huge problems with drugs, alcohol, and crime. Not the best place to go drinking for safety reasons.

thriftymaid's avatar

Your rights were not violated. Now you know the law.

missingbite's avatar

No. You were not forced to. Like I said they would have gotten around it but they had to have a reason to assume you were breaking the law and a brown paper bag won’t cut it.

Edit. I’m not from SF. If you were as @Captain_Fantasy said in an area with a high crime rate they would have had the probable cause to assume you had beer in there. Otherwise I would say no.

lillycoyote's avatar

Vacation in New Orleans, then this kind of thing will never happen to you again.

buster's avatar

You should have drank 40’s instead of cans so you can screw the lids back on.

missingbite's avatar

@lillycoyote New Orleans ROCKS! I’m from Louisiana and there is truly no place like it in the world.

@buster Once the cap is cracked it’s open. Top on or off.

lillycoyote's avatar

@missingbite Where in New Orleans can’t you have an open container? And they don’t mess with that brown bag business either, if I remember correctly. Yes. New Orleans ROCKS. And no, there is no place else like it in world.

missingbite's avatar

I can’t think of anywhere you can’t have an open container! Nor a place in the N.O. where you shouldn’t! Great times. It’s time for me to have a road trip!

lillycoyote's avatar

@missingbite Go for it. I’m jealous. And Jazzfest is just around the corner. Meet you at Congo Square. :)

missingbite's avatar

@lillycoyote Sounds great! Let’s hope the heat is bearable for Jazzfest this year! Sometimes it’s awful hot but still a blast!!!

galileogirl's avatar

@SamanthaRae It’s not usually tourists we see getting cited for open containers in the City, it’s the alcoholics who hang in the streets. Maybe that’s who the cops thought you were.

lilikoi's avatar

You waived your 4th and 5th amendment rights when you voluntarily took the containers out of the paper bags. You should have politely refused to be searched.

Your rights would have been violated if the cop forced you to take the container out of the bag after you refused, but you consented instead.

I am no lawyer, but I don’t see any way around paying the citation.

If you’re old enough to consume alcohol, you should really take the time to get to know your rights.

@Captain_Fantasy Even if they did have PC, they would still need to obtain a warrant, which likely would have been much more of a hassle than it was worth. Just because you are walking around in Tenderloin drinking out of a paper bag does not constitute PC in my mind. They’d have to have had a photo or something of them putting alcohol in the bag or something to have PC.

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