What is the name of your state? California
I was recently cited for possession of an open alcoholic container in public. The incident occurred at 11:25 PM on September 1st, 2006 on the sidewalk in front of a local bar in Pacific Beach, a community of San Diego, CA. The issuing officer was undercover and never presented any sort of identification. The container was a 32 oz. bottle of beer, about half of which had been consumed, and was in a brown paper bag at the time. I was not drinking when the cop approached me, but I was holding the open container. I was under the impression that drinking in public was legal so long as the container was kept concealed (i.e. brown paper bag), but I guess I was wrong. The actual law of which I was found in violation (this is noted on the citation) is California Business and Professions Code, Section 25620 (a), which reads:
Any person possessing any can, bottle, or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed, in any city, county, or city and county owned park or other city, county, or city and county owned public place, or any recreation and park district, or any regional park or open-space district shall be guilty of an infraction if the city, county, or city and county has enacted an ordinance that prohibits the possession of those containers in those areas or the consumption of alcoholic beverages in those areas.
Anyway, the cop checked the "misdemeanor" box on the ticket and referred me to the San Diego Misdemeanor Arraignment Department. However, I've got two friends who were cited in violation of the same law about a year ago, both of whom were given infractions and required to pay fines of about $150.
My questions are as follows:
1. Is the crime an infraction or a misdemeanor? If it's an infraction, does the cop have the power to make it a misdemeanor based on the circumstances?
2. Is drinking out of a paper bag really illegal? Do cops have the right to confiscate beverages that are concealed?
3. Was the cop required to show some sort of ID before detaining me and confiscating my beverage? If not, could this be a defense?
Thanks so much for any advice anyone may have that could shed some light on this for me.