California has strict open container laws that make it against the law to drive in a vehicle with an open alcoholic beverage. It does not matter whether or not you have consumed the beverage, you will still be held liable for the penalty if an open container is found. While adults may face an infraction and a penalty of up to $250, minors below the legal age of 21 may face harsher penalties including up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.00.
Open container laws in California raise a lot of questions. However, of the questions we typically come across, one of the most frequent is: “can you have an open container of alcohol in the trunk of your car?”
Let’s take a look at how California’s Open Container Laws apply to various situations, including when the opened container is stored in the trunk of your vehicle.
If the open container was in the trunk
If the open container of alcohol was in the trunk of the car, you are not in violation of California’s Open Container Laws. If your vehicle does not have a trunk, such as a pickup, you are allowed to have an open container in a space that is not typically occupied by people, such as the bed of the truck. It is important to understand that a utility compartment or glove compartment do not qualify, open alcohol containers cannot be stored within these compartments because they are still considered accessible by both the driver and passengers. If you have a trunk on your vehicle that is always the safest place to transport any opened containers of alcohol.
The law does make exemptions for hired cars such as limousines and tour buses so long as the driver is not consuming any of the alcohol available with the passengers.
What makes it an open container?
It does not matter if the alcoholic beverage has been consumed or not, if it has a broken seal or has been opened in any way it will be considered an open container under California law. The container can be a can, jar, bottle, flask, or any other item that is used to hold alcohol. If the case goes to court, the prosecutor will have to prove that the open container was possessed by you or under your control.
Open container laws apply to both the driver and passengers of the vehicle. No occupant of the vehicle is able to legally possess an opened container of alcohol.
If you have questions regarding California’s Open Container Laws you should contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss the details of your case.