It’s illegal to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle while you drive. You can be charged with an open container violation in addition to, or instead of, DUI.
In California, driving with an open bottle (or can, cup, etc) of alcohol in your car is illegal. If you are pulled over by police, an open container of alcohol is one of the first things they look for—whether or not you appeared to be driving as if you were impaired. If they spot the open container, they will immediately become suspicious of DUI. They could end up charging you with open container, driving under the influence, or both.
But not all containers of alcohol count as “open containers” for this purpose. The container is not illegal if:
- It has never been unsealed or opened, OR
- It is in a part of the car that isn’t normally occupied by passengers, such as the trunk.
Otherwise, the container is illegal.
(Rules are stricter for drivers under 21. See our complete guide to having alcohol in the car.)
Although inconvenient, an open container is much less serious than DUI. It is not a criminal offense, only a traffic violation. And the maximum penalty is a $250 fine—no jail time, no suspended license, and none of the other penalties a DUI carries. Because of this, if you have been arrested for DUI your lawyer may try to get the charge downgraded to simply driving with an open container.
Have you been charged with DUI? We can connect you with an experienced Los Angeles DUI lawyer and get you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call (310) 896-2724 and get your free consultation today.