Law Office of Michael L. Fell
900 Roosevelt Irvine, CA 92620
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Is it Legal to Have an Open Container of Alcohol in a Rideshare Vehicle in California

People choose to use a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft for a variety of reasons. They may not want to deal with parking in some situations, while they may have had too much alcohol in others and want to prevent a DUI arrest. But what happens if someone has an open container while riding in a ride-sharing vehicle? Does the law still prohibit it?

To learn more about California's open container laws and the penalties associated with them, keep reading. If you have been accused of committing a crime of any kind, call the Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055. For your free legal consultation, we can explain your alternatives to you.

Understanding California’s open container laws

In the state of California, it is illegal to operate a car while having an open container of alcohol nearby. Technically, even empty bottles that you would take for recycling fall under this rigorous rule, which is exceedingly strict. Alcohol containers are permitted in vehicles, but they must be both sealed and unopened. If not, they must be put in the trunk and kept there while the car is moving.

Penalties for violations of open container regulations

A passenger who is caught with an open container won't be subject to the same severe penalties as the driver, but they could still be fined $250. In fact, if the driver wasn't drinking but a passenger had an open container, they may still be fined $250. Another potentially costly problem for the driver is that their auto insurance rates can increase because their insurance provider might view them as a greater risk.

There are legal exceptions

There is one major exemption to the rule: Passengers are legally permitted to carry open containers in taxis, private buses, limousines, and other hired vehicles. Uber and Lyft can be categorized under this heading by the laws in effect today. Some may contend that open container regulations should apply to them because the vehicle is likely utilized for both personal and business transportation, in addition to being the driver's vehicle.

Uber and Lyft rules are the real problem

There is one aspect of the problem to keep in mind, even though it is unlikely that anyone will be punished or jailed for having an open container in an Uber or Lyft vehicle: Open containers are not permitted in Uber or Lyft vehicles, according to their policies. The driver runs the danger of having their platform account terminated if it is discovered that they are permitting passengers to bring in open containers.

In the end, having an open container in a Lyft or Uber won't result in your arrest. Although it is legally possible to receive a citation, the most likely outcome is that the driver will simply refuse to let you enter their vehicle. Call Law Office of Michael L. Fell at (949) 585-9055 to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense attorney if you are being investigated for any allegations relating to these or other instances.