It may seem to be no big deal if you are caught with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle. After all, unless you are over the legal limit and guilty of driving under the influence, why should it matter what you are drinking? Unfortunately, the state of California does not see it that way. Keep reading to get answers to your frequently asked questions about driving with open containers of alcohol. Then contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 if you are in need of a free legal consultation with a criminal defense attorney.
The Legality of Unopened Containers of Alcohol in Cars
First, it is important to know that if you are over the age of 21 then it is legal to have unopened alcohol in your car. However, if you are not yet 21 then it is always illegal to be in possession of alcohol – even if that alcohol is not opened. There is one exception: If a driver is under the age of 21 and is transported unopened alcohol at the direction of their approved employer or parent.
The Legality of Open Containers
Of course, if the container is open then the situation is entirely different. It is against the law for a person to have an open alcohol container in the passenger part of the motor vehicle in California. This is true when the vehicle is on a highway or other public lands. There is no difference between a car that is moving or is parked.
The Definition of Open Container
There can be some confusion about what the law means when it refers to open containers. It means that the container is open, yes, but it can also refer to a situation in which the seal on a container has simply been broken. If a beverage is partially or fully consumed, it is considered an open container. Note that this can include empty bottles of beer.
Does this mean that you cannot ever transport empty bottles? What if you want to recycle them? The good news is that you can do so – but the containers must be kept out of the passenger area of the car. For most vehicles, this means putting them in the trunk. Note that the glove compartment is not a legal place to transport open containers.
Open Container Laws Do Not Apply to All Vehicles or All Passengers
Note that the above described open container laws do not apply to buses, cabs, taxis, limos, campers, house cars, or pedicabs. However, for a vehicle to be exempt from the rules, and it is a for-hire vehicle, it must be licensed to transport passengers.
If you are arrested for or charged with any DUI charge, open container charge, public intoxication, or another alcohol-related charge, contact Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 for a free legal consultation.