Most states, including California, ban drivers and passengers from carrying open containers of alcohol in their cars. This ban means that no container that has ever contained alcohol may be in a spot that’s readily accessible by a person in the vehicle. However, not all states have the same measures in place.
In the following states, you can have open alcohol in the car while it’s operating:
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
If you’re traveling to California from one of these states, it’s important to note that you will face penalties for not adhering to the open container and drinking in vehicle laws of the Golden State. If you’re not sure what is allowed, or you have a question about a pending DUI in California, call us today at (310) 862-0199 to schedule your free consultation.
Looser Open Container and Drinking in Vehicle Laws
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 40 states, including California, and the District of Columbia, bar both the possession of open containers and the general consumption of alcohol in a motor vehicle. That leaves 10 states that allow open containers in the car. However, not all these states allow you to drink in the vehicle.
- No alcohol consumption in the car while it’s on a public roadway: Arkansas and West Virginia
- Passengers may consume alcohol: Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia
- No laws about consumption: Mississippi
Despite these more lenient alcohol transportation rules, all 50 states and D.C. prohibit drivers from having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.8%. A DUI in any state may affect your ability to drive in California.
California’s Open Container Law
California has strict laws about the transportation of open alcohol containers. You are guilty of violating the state’s open container laws under California Vehicle Code Section 23222 if you:
- Have an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of the vehicle
- Travel on any public roadway
California counts any container as open if the seal is broken, even if no alcohol has been removed. The state also considers recorked wine bottles as open containers.
A violation of Vehicle Code 23222 is an infraction, which can net you a monetary fine of up to $250.
California’s Drinking in a Vehicle Law
Much like the state’s open container laws, California also forbids the consumption of alcohol by both drivers and passengers in a vehicle on a public roadway. Under Vehicle Code Section 23221, you are guilty of an infraction for drinking in a car on any public road. This infraction also carries a maximum penalty of $250.
Underage Drivers and Passengers
The above laws assume that the drivers and passengers are older than 20. In California, underage individuals face special restrictions when it comes to transporting alcohol in their vehicles. Underage drivers may not:
- Possess an open container of alcohol
- Possess a closed container of alcohol
While adult drivers may have an open container in their trunk, underage drivers and passengers may not have alcohol anywhere in their vehicle.
An underage driver or passenger violating Vehicle Code Section 23224 is guilty of a misdemeanor and faces:
- A jail sentence of up to six months
- A fine not to exceed $1,000
An underage driver may also have their vehicle impounded for up to 30 days for violating this statute.
Since the passage and enactment of Proposition 64, California has allowed for the personal consumption of marijuana. To prevent potential reckless driving behavior, marijuana consumption and possession is treated like alcohol. As such, many of the above penalties may apply equally to marijuana as they do to having alcohol in a car.
Open Alcohol in Cars and DUIs
Police officers in California look for any signs of open alcohol when they suspect a DUI. Spotting an open container or a passenger drinking alcohol, on top of any suspicious driving habits, may lead to a DUI arrest. Once arrested, you are required to submit to a breathalyzer. For underage drivers in the state, a BAC of 0.01% may lead to misdemeanor DUI charges.
If you’ve been found with open alcohol in your car and arrested for a DUI, you still have defense options available to you. Speaking with an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible can be your best option. Call (310) 862-0199 to schedule your free consultation.