California Open Container Law
An open alcoholic beverage container in certain public places or a motor vehicle can have inevitable legal repercussions. Although these crimes are considered infractions, they can draw attention and lead to other charges that are misdemeanors and felonies. If this happens, you’ll need to understand the individual charges and the penalties that courts can impose. Learn more about the California open container law.
When you’re charged with alcohol-related crimes, a criminal defense attorney will know how to focus on each and determine the best legal strategy. Our team at Dod Law, APC may be able to lessen the impact of the fines you’ll have to pay, the effect on your driver’s license, and other associated difficulties that may arise from being charged with these crimes.
The Definition of an Open Container
A can, bottle, or other receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage that is opened, has a broken seal, or the contents have been partially removed is considered an open container. California law prohibits open containers in any public place, park, or recreation area owned by cities or counties in California. However, there are exceptions to this rule.
The enforcement of this law does not apply when there is a permit that allows the possession of open containers in city or county-owned public places, parks, or recreation areas. A person won’t be charged with this infraction if they have open containers with the intent of recycling or other related activity.
The law also prohibits open containers of alcohol from being within a passenger’s or driver’s reach when in a private motor vehicle. You are not allowed to keep them in any part of the motor vehicle that passengers occupy, including utility and glove compartments.
What Are Public Places in California?
Any place owned by a city or county in California is considered public. Public places can include:
- Streets and sidewalks
- State parks and beaches
- Entertainment venues, such as live music concerts, outdoor festivals, and street fairs
- College campuses and school grounds
If you have an open container in any of these public places that don’t have a permit to allow open containers, you’ll be charged with an infraction, which may result in paying a fine. In addition, you may be scrutinized further by law enforcement personnel for other misdemeanor crimes.
For example, law enforcement will consider a disorderly conduct public intoxication charge if your intoxication condition interferes with, obstructs, or prevents the use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way. If your intoxication is compromising the safety of yourself and others, law enforcement can charge you with public intoxication.
Exceptions to Open Container Laws in Motor Vehicles – California Open Container Law
Private motor vehicles cannot have open containers in the passenger compartment of the car, but you can have open containers in the trunk or in a locked container that is fully enclosed and locked by a padlock, key lock, or combination lock. If open containers are found in the vehicle’s passenger compartment, this infraction will incur fines and possible points off your driver’s license.
Other exceptions include different types of vehicles. RVs and campers are allowed open containers in the living quarters but not in the area where the driver sits. Limousines, taxis, and buses are allowed open containers where the passengers are separated from the driver.
Although open container violations are infractions, be aware that if law enforcement officers notice open containers where they shouldn’t be in your vehicle, they may investigate for further misdemeanor or felony crimes, like DUIs.
Consult California’s Skilled Criminal Defense Attorneys at Dod Law, APC
Although there are laws that prohibit open alcohol containers in certain places, breaking these laws can lead to more serious charges like public intoxication or DUIs. The attorneys at Dod Law, APC will be able to sort out any charges stemming from the use of alcohol because we know the local laws and how they pertain to your specific circumstances.
Our attorneys with over 19 years of experience will work hard to get charges against you dropped, dismissed, reduced, or acquitted. We will analyze the evidence and use our knowledge to provide the best outcome for your case. To get your free case review today, call us at our San Diego office (619) 814-5110 | or Vista office 760-814-6025 complete our contact form.