Commonwealth v. MansurAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Judicial Court held that possession of an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle is a civil motor vehicle infraction rather than a criminal offense, thus overruling Commonwealth v. Giannino, 371 Mass. 700 (1977), in which the Court held that automobile law violations must encompass the "operation or control" of a motor vehicle.
Defendant was charged with possessing open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 20, and other offenses. Defendant argued that the open container charged constituted a civil infraction, rather than a criminal offense. The trial court disagreed, concluding that it was a criminal offense. A jury found Defendant guilty. At issue was whether an open container violation fits within the definition of a "civil motor vehicle infraction," which is defined as an automobile law violation for which the maximum penalty does not provide for imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed after analyzing the legislative history and plain language of the open container statute, holding that a violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 24I is an automobile law violation and thus a civil motor vehicle infraction.