June 26, 2022 By Matthew Wallin

California Vehicle Code 23222 

In most cities in the United States, drinking on the streets is prohibited. California law makes it illegal to possess or consume an open container of alcohol in public places. If someone is caught with an open container on the streets, he may be given a ticket. However, the penalties may be more severe if the open container is in an automobile. 

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23222, a person may not have in their possession on their person, while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands, a bottle, can, or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage which has been opened. This includes if the seal has been broken or if the contents of the receptacle have been partially removed. Containers with only water or non-alcoholic beverages are legal. Open containers encompass a number of things that people may not normally think of. For example, an open container could be: 

  • A cup, glass, or hip flask 
  • A bottle with a broken seal, even if it has never been opened 
  • A bottle of wine with the cork re-sealed 
  • An empty can under the seat 

There are certain circumstances under which you may have open containers of alcohol in your car. These situations include: 

  • If you are a passenger in a bus, taxi, limousine, or other hired vehicle 
  • If the open containers are stowed in the trunk or somewhere passengers cannot easily access 
  • If you are only driving on private lands 

VC Section 23222 also applies similarly to receptacles containing cannabis or cannabis products. A person who has a receptacle of cannabis which has been opened or has a broken seal, or loose cannabis flower not in a container, is guilty of an infraction. An exception applies if the person is carrying a current identification card or a physician’s recommendation and the container of cannabis is sealed, resealed, or closed. 

Consequences of an Open Container Violation 

Generally, possession of an open container in a vehicle is charged as an infraction. This has similar consequences to a speeding ticket, with a maximum fine of $250. However, if you are under 21 years of age, you may be facing more serious consequences. Under California Vehicle Code Section 23224, a person under the age of 21 may not knowingly drive any motor vehicle carrying any alcoholic beverage unless he is accompanied by a parent or other adult for the purpose of transporting the alcohol, or is employed by a licensee under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Act. If you are charged under VC Section 23224, the crime is a misdemeanor, and you may face: 

  • Up to $1,000 in fines 
  • Up to 6 months in county jail 
  • Suspension or revocation of your license 

In addition, if you are also caught consuming the container of alcohol, your open container violation may be charged in conjunction with a DUI. When that happens, the judge may impose stricter penalties that apply for cases of driving under the influence. Even if you have not been drinking, having an open container in your vehicle may give law enforcement reasonable suspicion to investigate you for a DUI. In fact, officers may even ask you to take a breath test or arrest you on the spot for DUI charges. No matter the case, driving with an open container in your car can lead to adverse consequences and should be avoided when possible. 

Contact Wallin & Klarich Today 

If you have been cited for an open container violation or a DUI, contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see if we can help you avoid legal consequences. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is the greatest choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients in DUI-related cases with successful outcomes, and we have the skills and resources to help you as well. 

With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you. 

Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.

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