No one driving can be consuming alcohol, but what about any passengers
in their car? In California, no passenger can possess anything containing
alcohol which has been opened or its seal broken. In essence, you may
transport alcohol in your car but it cannot be opened. Even if an open
container is found, the result is usually just an infraction that comes
with a maximum of a $250 fine and no jail time.
If you as the driver or passengers in your car are under 21, any alcohol
found could be a violation of the state's zero-tolerance policy which
is a misdemeanor offense coming with up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
If you do have open containers, your best bet would be to put them in the
trunk of your vehicle which is legal.
Exceptions & Defenses
Another variable is that the prosecution in such a case needs to prove
that you as the driver knew about the open container and drove knowing
it was in the cabin of your car, and this can be difficult to prove if
there are multiple people in your car.
If you are driving a vehicle with no trunk such as a pick-up truck, your
defense lawyer may argue that the alcohol was still inaccessible to you.
Further, the state's open container laws do not apply to passengers
or driver of a bus, taxi, limousine, RV, or camper. Passengers in such
vehicles can consume alcohol if they are of age, drivers are prohibited
from doing so.
Any officer that does not have probable cause to stop you or to search
your vehicle can constitute a violation of your 4th Amendment protections. Such evidence can be thrown out of court if used
to convict you.
Call the Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman for legal advice if you were arrested for