An open container has typically referred to any receptacle that has been opened that may have contained alcohol in it. Since the passage of Proposition 64, the laws have been amended to also include marijuana. Therefore, an open container now means any open receptacle that has had either an alcohol or marijuana product in it.
Getting pulled over with an open container may also mean that you’re facing DUI charges. Peace officers frequently see open containers as evidence that you may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, even if you otherwise show no signs of impairment. If you’ve been arrested for a DUI or an open container violation, call (310) 896-2724 to schedule your free case evaluation with a leading DUI lawyer.
CA Vehicle Code 23222
California Vehicle Code 23222 codifies the specifics of what constitutes an open container violation within the state. It defines what constitutes a relevant container, where the vehicle must be discovered with the container, and how alcohol or marijuana may be transported.
Specific Open Containers
Under California law, an individual may be cited with an open container violation for possessing:
- Wine bottles with the seal removed (even if the cork is still in place or has been replaced)
- Any open glass, cup, or bottle that contains alcohol
- Any case that contains cannabis products with the seal removed
Alcohol or marijuana doesn’t have to be present in the receptacle for you to be charged with a violation of the open container law. Having empty beer bottles or edibles containers in your vehicle can result in your arrest and may also trigger an investigation into a possible DUI.
Location of the Vehicle
Any motorist driving a vehicle found on public roads or lands with an open container as defined above can face an open container violation. However, if the vehicle is on private lands, this law does not apply. So, if the vehicle with the open container is on private land, you may not be charged with a violation.
Safely Transporting Alcohol and Marijuana
The open container law allows individuals to transport open containers of alcohol and marijuana in any location in the vehicle which the driver is unable to readily access. Typically, this means the trunk of the vehicle. Closed containers, meaning those with the seals and contents still intact, maybe transported normally.
Individuals possessing a marijuana product who have a medical need may have the open container law waived if they:
- Kept the seal on the product, resealed it, or closed the receptacle
- Provide the peace officer with a doctor’s recommendation or a current ID card
Both must factor must be met at the time of the stop.
Another Exception to the Open Container Law
There is one other exception to the open container law. If you are a passenger in a taxi, ride-sharing vehicle, limousine, or other vehicle-for-hire, you may have an open alcohol or marijuana product in your possession.
Penalties for Violating the Open Container Law
While having an open container is a violation of the law, it does not rise to the level of misdemeanor. Like a speeding ticket, it is considered an “infraction.” The only penalty for violating the law is fine, which may not exceed $250.
In California, individuals under the age of 21 are not allowed to possess alcohol on their own. When someone who is under 21 is alone and found with any alcohol in their vehicle, they are guilty of a criminal misdemeanor. Under these circumstances, the container doesn’t have to be open for it to be a crime. Like with other adults, an open container may still trigger an investigation into a possible DUI.
Open Containers and DUI
While an open container can be a headache on its own, the real trouble of an open container is what it may mean during a traffic stop. When an officer notices an open container in a vehicle, they may see it as probable cause to arrest you for a DUI. Unlike open container violations, a DUI is a criminal misdemeanor for everyone and can result in thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time.
If you’ve been charged with an open container infraction or a DUI, your best course of action may be to retain an experienced DUI lawyer. Both charges can be beaten, but it may be difficult to do so without skilled legal aid. Call (310) 896-2724 or use the form on this page to schedule your free initial consultation with a Los Angeles DUI lawyer.