California has a number of strict regulations designed to curtail driving under the influence (DUI). Some of these charges are used directly to prosecute drivers who have a high blood alcohol content (BAC). Other charges are designed to punish drivers who have not yet exceeded the legal limit.
California Vehicle Code Section 23222(a): Possessing an Open Container While Driving can be used against drivers who possess alcohol if they do not have an illegally high BAC. The Simmrin Law Group can help you learn more about the applications of VC 23222(a) charges and other DUI charges with this article.
Possessing an Open Container While Driving: Definition
Individuals in California can face charges under Vehicle Code Section 23222(a) if they drive in a motor vehicle on a highway while in possession of an open:
- Bottle of Alcohol.
- Can of Alcohol.
- Other Receptacle for Holding Alcohol.
Containers of alcohol that have a broken seal or that have been partially drunk may also lead to VC 23222(a) charges. Note that – for the purposes of VC 23222(a) charges – a highway is any public road in California.
Possessing an Open Container While Driving: Exceptions
You should be aware that there are several exceptions to charges for possessing an open container while driving. Individuals may be exempted from VC 23222(a) charges if they are driving in a:
However, this exception does not apply if another passenger in the vehicle is under the age of 21. Additionally, individuals may operate a vehicle containing an open container of alcohol if the container is:
- In the Trunk.
- In the Bed of a Pickup Truck.
- In a Locked Container.
These exceptions can allow an individual to avoid prosecution for possessing an open container while driving.
Possessing an Open Container While Driving: Penalties
Possessing an open container while driving is treated as an infraction in California. Individuals who are found guilty of a VC 23222(a) violation can be fined up to $250. They may also face high court fees.
You should be aware that drivers or passengers under 21 are generally not prosecuted under VC 23222(a). They can face harsher penalties with California Vehicle Code Section 23224: Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle by a Person Under 21. The penalties for VC 23224 can include:
- Jail Time: Up to Six Months.
- Fines: Up to $1,000.
- License Suspension: Up to One Year.
Find out more about the repercussions for drivers under 21 who possess alcohol in a vehicle with a DUI lawyer in Los Angeles.
Possessing an Open Container While Driving: Comparison to DUI Charges
Possessing an open container in California is a relatively minor charge. However, a police officer may test a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) if they are found with an open container. If the driver’s BAC exceeds the legal limits, the driver could face charges for driving under the influence (DUI).
DUIs are punished far more severely in the state of California. Drivers can face fines along with jail time and the loss of their license. Additionally, the results of a DUI conviction will grow worse each time a driver is arrested.
Possessing an Open Container While Driving: Defenses
You may be able to build a defense for possessing an open container while driving charges by contacting a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. A legal professional can review all aspects of your case. Depending upon your situation, your lawyer could argue:
You Were Driving in an Exempt Vehicle
As we mentioned earlier, passengers in some vehicles – including taxis and limousines – are not covered by VC 23222(a) charges, as long as everyone in the vehicle is over 21. If you were driving in an exempted vehicle a lawyer could build your defense now.
You Stored Any Open Containers in an Approved Way
The state of California allows you to transport open containers as long as they are in the trunk, in an area of a vehicle where people do not generally ride, or in a locked container. If you were transporting alcohol responsibly, you shouldn’t be convicted under VC 23222(a).
Take Care of VC 23222(a) Charges with a Professional Legal Help
Get ready to successfully resolve California Vehicle Code Section 23222(a): Possessing an Open Container While Driving charges by speaking with a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles. The professionals at the Simmrin Law Group can start working on your case now. Just call 310-997-4688 or fill out our online contact form.
We are ready to begin building your case today with a FREE initial case evaluation.