Law For Open Containers in California
Driving under the influence of alcohol is the cause of numerous dangerous and lethal accidents in California; it should go without saying that the penalties are severe. Similarly, there is drinking while driving, which not only hinders your ability to drive due to the effects of alcohol but is also a distraction in and of itself.
It’s no surprise that the law reserves some of the harshest penalties for those infractions. Here we explore the basics of the law for open containers in California, which should be of essential knowledge for every driver out there.
What Is an Open Container?
An open container is defined in the California Vehicle Code 23223 as “any bottle, can, or other receptacle carrying any alcoholic beverage that has been opened, a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.”
Simply said, any vessel holding alcohol that has ever been opened is considered an open container, and having it in a vehicle is banned.
What Does the Law for Open Containers Say?
In California, open container laws make it illegal for drivers to have an alcoholic beverage open or with the seal broken, even if the alcohol is not being consumed.
This is usually a violation punishable by a maximum fine of $250. However, if you are a driver or passenger under the age of 21 and are caught breaking this rule, you will be charged with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail and approximately a $1,000 fine.
The good news is that this charge is legally defensible in many ways. These include, but (are not limited to):
- The alcohol was in the trunk.
- You were in a “hired” vehicle such as a taxi, bus, or limousine.
- There was no probable reason for the police to detain you.
- The police discovered your open container due to an illegal search and seizure.
What Is the Legislation in California Regarding Driving With an Open Container of Alcohol?
Many California statutes ban the same behavior: driving (or riding in) an automobile with an open bottle, can, or any other recipient containing an alcoholic beverage. These laws are enshrined in:
- Vehicle Code 23221 VC: drinking in an automobile.
- Vehicle Code 23222(a) VC: possessing an open container in an automobile.
- Vehicle Code 23224 VC: possession of an open container in an automobile by someone under 21.
- Vehicle Code 23225 VC: storing open containers in the trunk.
- Vehicle Code 23226 VC: storing open containers in the passenger compartment.
- Vehicle Code 23229 VC: exceptions for in-hire vehicles, and Vehicle Code 23229.1 VC prohibits in-hire vehicles from storing alcohol when transporting persons under 21.
NOTE: The term “open” does not technically mean that there is no top on the beverage, but rather that the drink has been opened, has a broken seal, or has been partially or totally consumed.
Can Anyone In A Vehicle Have an Open Container?
The California Vehicle Code 23223 applies to both drivers and passengers. It makes no difference whether the alcohol is being consumed; all that counts is that the container may be drunk in the car. The only legal means to transport an opened container of alcohol is in the trunk. It is illegal for anyone driving or riding in a vehicle to have an open container in their possession.
Unfortunately, many people in California get cited each year for having an open container in their vehicle. A conviction could result in a large fine, points on your driver’s license, higher insurance rates, and a slew of other unpleasant consequences. In these cases, you should rely on teams such as Ticket Snipers, who will help you through the whole process.
I Got a Ticket for an Open Container, Now What?
Drivers who get this type of citation will almost certainly face higher vehicle insurance prices. You may also lose any current professional driver certifications, putting your career in danger.
A qualified traffic ticket lawyer will be familiar with the common defenses for open container fines and will be able to argue for less severe punishment. As mentioned before, if your attorney can show that the alcohol was in the trunk, or you were in a hired vehicle, stopped without probable cause, or the officer discovered the open container during an improper search and seizure, the judge may decide in your favor.
If you obtain a traffic citation for possessing an open container, you face a minimum punishment of $366.
If you wish to avoid these severe consequences, you can fight the ticket! Contact our staff at Ticket Snipers today to learn more about your options and how to deal with an open container ticket. Let us handle your ticket!