35+ Years DUI Defense Experience in California

awards

California’s Open Container Laws

In the state of California, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. Though this may seem like a simple law, there are many subdivisions of the law people may not know about. In some cases, having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle may not be violating an open container law.

Getting caught with an open container of alcohol is a minor charge that will result in an infraction on your record. However, a minor who is caught with an open container of alcohol in a vehicle faces a misdemeanor charge that is punishable by jail time and fines. If you or a loved one wants to fight an open container charge, it is important to have an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney who will fight for you.

What are California’s Open Container Laws?

California’s laws prohibiting open containers of alcohol are explained in California Vehicle Code Sections 23221-23229:

Open container laws in California.
All alcohol containers must be closed and sealed if they are within a vehicle in California.
  • Under California Vehicle Code Section 23221, it is illegal to drink alcohol in a car as a driver or passenger.
  •  Under California Vehicle Code Section 23222(a), it is illegal to be in possession of an open container of alcohol in a car as a driver or passenger.
  • Under California Vehicle Code Section 23224, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to be in possession of an open container of alcohol in a car as a driver or passenger.
  • Under California Vehicle Code Section 23229.1, it is illegal for commercial vehicles (buses, taxis, etc.) to store alcohol when transporting people under the age of 21.

To be in violation of California’s open container laws, you must have driven on any public road or highway. Private roads or parking lots do not count.

What is an “Open Container?”

“Open container” does not just mean a beer bottle without the bottle cap. “Open container” can also mean a broken seal or any container that has been partially or entirely consumed.

“Container” can be anything from a bottle to a can or flask.

The contents in the container can be anything that contains alcohol, from beer to liquor or wine.

What Must be Proven for an Open Container Violation?

To be convicted of possession of an open container of alcohol in a vehicle under California Penal Code Section 23222(a), the prosecution must prove that the container was either on your person or under your control. The container could have been in your hand, within your reach or in your pocket or purse. The container has to be connected to you, not just be in your vehicle.

If you actually drank alcohol from the container as a passenger or driver of a vehicle, you will be cited for drinking alcohol in a car, which is prohibited under California Vehicle Code Section 23221. You could face a further charge of driving under the influence under California Vehicle Code Section 23152.

What are the Exceptions (and Defenses) to an Open Container Violation?

There are certain exceptions to California’s open container laws, which your attorney can use as viable defenses to an open container violation. They include, but are not limited to:

  • The alcohol was in the trunk of the car: Under California Vehicle Code Section 23225, you are allowed to have an open container of alcohol in the trunk of the car.

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23226, you are allowed to have an open container of alcohol in an area of your vehicle not normally occupied by people (like the bed of a truck) or in a locked container in your vehicle.

  • The alcohol was in a bus, taxi, limousine, motor home or camper: Under California Vehicle Code Section 23229, drivers or passengers in a bus, taxi, limousine, motor home or camper are allowed to be in possession of an open container of alcohol. However, while passengers are allowed to drink in these vehicles, drivers are not.
Defenses to an open container violation in California.
If the alcohol was found in the trunk of your car, you may have a valid defense to your charge.

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23229.1 if there is a person under the age of 21 in these vehicles, then open containers of alcohol are not allowed in these vehicles unless they are stored in the ways indicated above. Limousines are exempt in this scenario because the alcohol can be locked in areas normally occupied by passengers in this vehicle.

  • There was no probable cause: In the state of California, the police cannot pull you over and search your vehicle without probable cause. “Probable cause” is a reasonable belief that something illegal is or was taking place in your vehicle. For example, the police would have reason to pull you over if they clocked you speeding. If the police then saw an open container of alcohol in plain view through your windows, they would have probable cause to search your vehicle. However, if the police gave you no legal reason to pull you over and found an open container of alcohol in your vehicle, you could fight the infraction with a probable cause challenge.
  • Illegal search or seizure: The charge against you could be dismissed if the police only found an open container of alcohol in your vehicle by violating California’s search and seizure laws. If the police found an open container of alcohol in your vehicle but did not have probable cause, did not arrest you for another violation or searched your vehicle without your consent, the charge against you may be dismissed.

What is the Punishment for Violating California’s Open Container Laws?

Violating California’s open container laws is an infraction. An infraction essentially has the same effects as a traffic ticket. You do not have to serve any jail time nor will the infraction be on your criminal record. However, an infraction is punishable by a fine of up to $250 and a point on your driving record, which may increase your auto insurance costs.

If your open container infraction was connected to a driving under the influence (DUI) charge, then you would face further penalties for a DUI charge under California Vehicle Code Section 23152.

DUI Relating to an Open Container Violation – California Vehicle Code Section 23152

If you were found to be in possession of an open container of alcohol or were found to be drinking an open container of alcohol while driving, it could lead to a chemical test and a charge of DUI.

Under California Penal Code Section 23152(a), it is illegal to drive under the influence of any amount of alcohol or drugs. Under Penal Code Section 23152(b), it is illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or higher. A first-time DUI conviction is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail, a $2,000 fine and a six-month suspension of your license.

California’s Open Container Laws Regarding Minors – California Vehicle Code Section 23224

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23224, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to drive a car knowing that it contains any alcoholic beverage (whether opened or unopened) and to be a passenger in a car and knowingly possess any alcoholic beverage (whether it is opened or unopened).

A person under the age of 21 who violates California’s open container laws faces a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to six months in county jail, a$1,000 fine and a one-year suspension of his/her driver’s license.

Call Wallin & Klarich Today

Wallin & Klarich open container law attorneys
If you are accused of violating California’s open container laws, call our office today. We will get through this together.

If you or a loved one wants to fight an open container violation, it is critical that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Wallin & Klarich, our attorneys have over 30 years of experience in handling all types of open container violations in Southern California. Our attorneys will fight to get you the best possible outcome in your case.

With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Tustin, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich Southern California criminal defense attorney near you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.

Was This Article Helpful? Please Share it.

Confidential Consultation

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Related Testimonials

attorneys

Contact Us Now

If you or a loved one have been accused of a crime, this is the time to contact us.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
awards

Get In Touch


Contact Info


wklaw
17592 Irvine Blvd. Tustin, CA 92780 (714) 730-5300
(877) 466-5245

Counties


Los Angeles County

Los Angeles | Long Beach | Glendale | Santa Clarita | Lancaster | Palmdale | Pomona | Torrance | Pasadena | West Covina | Carson | Santa Monica | Whittier | Lakewood | Redondo Beach | Arcadia | Diamond Bar | Glendora | Cerritos | La Mirada | Rancho Palos Verdes | Culver City | Manhattan Beach | Claremont | Beverly Hills | San Dimas | Walnut | Calabasas | Hermosa Beach | El Segundo | Palos Verdes Estates | Malibu

Orange County

Santa Ana | Anaheim | Irvine | Huntington Beach | Garden Grove | Orange | Fullerton | Costa Mesa | Mission Viejo | Westminster | Newport Beach | Buena Park | Lake Forest | Tustin | Yorba Linda | San Clemente | Laguna Niguel | La Habra | Fountain Valley | Anaheim Hills | Placentia | Rancho Santa Margarita | Aliso Viejo | Cypress | Brea | Stanton | San Juan Capistrano | Dana Point | Laguna Hills | North Tustin | Seal Beach | Ladera Ranch | Laguna Beach | Laguna Woods | La Palma | Coto de Caza | Los Alamitos | Rossmoor | Midway City | Las Flores | Villa Park

Riverside County

Riverside | Moreno Valley | Corona | Temecula | Murrieta | Jurupa Valley | Indio | Hemet | Menifee | Perris | Eastvale | Cathedral City | Palm Desert | Lake Elsinore | Palm Springs | La Quinta | Coachella | San Jacinto | Beaumont | Wildomar | Banning | Norco | Desert Hot Springs | Blythe | Rancho Mirage | Canyon Lake | Calimesa | Indian Wells

San Bernardino County

San Bernardino | Fontana | Rancho Cucamonga | Ontario | Victorville | Rialto | Hesperia | Chino | Chino Hills | Upland | Apple Valley | Redlands | Highland | Colton | Yucaipa | Montclair | Adelanto | Twentynine Palms | Loma Linda | Barstow | Yucca Valley | Grand Terrace | Big Bear Lake | Needles

San Diego

San Diego | Oceanside | Escondido | Carlsbad | Vista | San Marcos | Encinitas | Solana Beach | El Cajon | Santee | Poway | La Mesa | Del Mar

Ventura

Oxnard | Thousand Oaks | Simi Valley | Ventura | Camarillo | Moorpark | Santa Paula | Port Hueneme | Fillmore | Ojai

Copyright © 2018 Wallin & Klarich - All rights reserved
California DUI Defense Lawyer Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site is provided for informational purposes only. It should not be construed to be formal legal advice for your legal matter, nor the formation of a lawyer or attorney client relationship. Any results listed on this site are based upon the facts of that particular case and do not represent a promise or guarantee for a particular result in your case. Please contact our office for a free telephonic consultation about your legal matter. The contents of this website may contain legal advertising. It is not intended to solicit clients for matters outside of the state of California.
X