Maryland Senate votes to make open alcohol container violations a civil offense

By Michael Dresser
The Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Senate passed legislation Friday that would make carrying an open container of an alcoholic beverage a civil offense rather than a misdemeanor.

Under the legislation, which was approved 43-3, police would issue a citation rather than make an arrest in most cases.

The bill will go to the House of Delegates, where companion legislation has been filed.

The measure, sponsored by Montgomery County Democratic Sen. Will Smith, would leave the fine for a first offense at $100.

The bill is in line with a trend in the legislature in recent years to decriminalize common offenses, such as possessing a small amount of marijuana.

Backers of such measures say they want to avoid giving people a criminal record for minor violations.