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California's Open Container Laws

Have you ever opened a bottle of wine at a friend’s house or at a picnic, only to place the half-filled bottle of wine in the back of your car along with your other belongings before heading home? After all, it was an expensive bottle of wine, so you don’t want it to go to waste.

Or, has the designated driver for the evening picked you and a few friends up, only for the drinkers to slide into the passenger seats with a plastic cup of alcohol or an open bottle of beer?

If you’ve ever done one of the above, it’s time to rethink your strategies because in California having an open bottle of alcohol or any open container of alcohol is illegal. Sure, you can take the chance but is it really worth it?

No Open Containers Allowed

California’s “open container” laws are covered under sections 23221-23229 VC. Collectively, these laws prohibit having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle, even if the alcohol wasn’t actually consumed.

Luckily, most open container offenses are an infraction, punishable by a maximum $250 fine if you are 21 years-of-age or older. On the other hand, if you’re under the age of 21 and you’re caught with an open container, you’ll likely be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by:

  • Up to a $1,000 fine
  • Up to six months in jail

So, the next time you want to tuck a flask of whiskey in your jacket or purse (for the ladies), or bring an open bottle of wine home after an evening with friends, consider storing the alcohol in the trunk, or if you have a truck, in the bed of the pickup.

If you were caught and the open container was in the trunk, you may have a good legal defense. If the alcohol in the trunk and not in the front or back seat, then you are not guilty of violating California’s open container law.

If you are facing charges for having an open container, we invite you to contact the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc., one of Orange County’s leading DUI defense firms.

You can schedule a free consultation with an experienced member of our legal team – call today!