The court system in California is very intolerant of driving under the influence (DUI). In fact, individuals can face criminal charges just for drinking an alcoholic beverage in a vehicle. This act can be prosecuted under California Vehicle Code Section 23221: Drinking in a Motor Vehicle.
You can find out exactly who can be prosecuted under VC 23221 charges with this article. The Simmrin Law Group can also help you review the penalties for drinking in a motor vehicle conviction. You’ll even discover information about possible legal defenses for VC 23221 accusations.
Go Over the Definition of Vehicle Code Section 23221
You can find the exact legal definition of drinking in a motor vehicle in VC 23221. According to this legal code:
- Both Drivers and Passengers Are Not Permitted To
- Drink an Alcoholic Beverage OR
- Smoke or Ingest Marijuana or Marijuana Products
- While Driving a Motor Vehicle on a Highway
Note that “highways” in California can be any public road, not just major freeways.
Focus on Penalties for Drinking in a Motor Vehicle
Drinking in a motor vehicle is considered an infraction by the court system in California. Therefore, drivers or passengers convicted under VC 23221 should not face jail time. The maximum penalty for drinking in a motor vehicle is a fine of up to $250.
However, you should be aware that drinking in a motor vehicle charges are generally only applicable if all individuals in a vehicle are over the age of 21. Drivers or passengers under 21 who drink in a motor vehicle can face harsher charges.
Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle by a Person Under 21
We mentioned that VC 23221 charges are only applicable to drivers or passengers over the age of 21. If an individual under 21 is arrested for possessing or drinking alcohol in a vehicle, they can instead face charges under California Vehicle Code Section 23224: Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle by a Person Under 21.
There are exceptions to VC 23224 charges. For example, a driver under 21 could be exempted from this charge if they are with a parent. You should be aware that convictions for VC 23224 can lead to:
- Fines of Up to $1,000.
- Jail Time of Up to Six Months.
- License Suspension of Up to One Year.
DUI Charges and Drinking in a Motor Vehicle
Drinking in a motor vehicle is a very minor charge compared to driving under the influence (DUI). Drivers may face DUI charges if they are pulled over for drinking in a motor vehicle and a police officer discovers their blood alcohol content (BAC) is over the legal limit.
DUI charges can lead to high fines, jail time, and a driver’s license suspension. Additionally, the penalties for a DUI grow more severe each time a driver is arrested. You can learn more about DUI charges by contacting a DUI lawyer in Los Angeles. A legal professional can help you go over:
- California Vehicle Code Section 23136: Under 21 DUI with Any Measurable Amount of Alcohol.
- California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a): Driving Under The Influence Of Alcohol.
- California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b): Driving With A Blood Alcohol Content Of 0.08 Percent Or Higher.
- California Vehicle Code Section 23152(d): Driving a Commercial Vehicle with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.04 Percent or Higher.
- California Vehicle Code Section 23152(f): Driving Under the Influence of Drugs.
Review Defenses for VC 23221 Charges in California
While you should only face a fine for drinking in a motor vehicle, you can still stand up to unfair accusations in California. A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can help you if you were unjustly accused of violating VC 23221. Your lawyer could work to show that:
You Were Falsely Accused of Drinking in a Motor Vehicle
Many soda bottles and cans resemble containers for alcoholic beverages. Sometimes, confusion about what exactly a driver or passenger is drinking can lead to mistaken accusations of drinking in a motor vehicle.
You Were Not Driving on a Highway
Drinking in a motor vehicle charges should only apply if you were operating a vehicle on a public road. If you were enjoying an alcoholic beverage while driving up your private driveway you should not be charged under VC 23221.
A Lawyer Can Help You Handle Drinking in a Motor Vehicle Charges
Make sure you’re ready to take on California Vehicle Code Section 23221: Drinking in a Motor Vehicle charges by contacting the Simmrin Law Group. You can easily reach our criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles to get a FREE consultation about your legal situation.
Complete our online contact form or call 310-997-4688 to get professional legal help on your side.