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What are open container laws in California? 

On Behalf of | Oct 9, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Most people are well aware that it is illegal to drink and drive. They cannot bring alcoholic beverages with them in the car, nor can they drive if they have previously been drinking and they are impaired by the substances they’ve consumed. Drunk driving is very common and results in thousands of arrests every year.

But one important thing to note is that California – like most other states – specifically bans having an open container in the car, even if someone is not drinking it. This could still lead to serious charges.

What does the law say?

The law is very clear about this, stating that someone can: “…not have in their possession on their person, while driving a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands…a bottle, can, or other receptacle, containing an alcoholic beverage which has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.”

The goal of this law is to prevent people from bringing alcohol in the vehicle with them and consuming it while they drive. But it goes beyond that, and simple mistakes could lead to accusations of impaired driving.

For example, someone may go to a restaurant and order a bottle of wine. If they don’t finish it all, they will want to take it home because it was an expensive purchase. But if the bottle is unsealed and is in the passenger compartment with the driver, they would be in violation of California laws, even if they never took a single drink while they were driving home. If a police officer pulled them over and saw the wine bottle in the car, they could make an arrest.

This type of violation could result in serious ramifications. Any driver who is facing such allegations needs to know about their legal defense options.