How serious is an open container ticket in California? Some of these tickets are relatively minor, only resulting in a small fine. In other situations, they could lead to jail time. The severity of the ticket often depends upon whether or not you had someone under 21 in your vehicle.
Learn more about California’s open container laws here and review the charges used to prosecute open container tickets and the penalties for a conviction. We will even go over defenses used in open container cases.
Basic Rules on Carrying an Open Container
Drivers in California are not legally allowed to carry open containers of alcohol or drugs in their vehicle. The court uses Vehicle Code Section 23222(a) to prosecute many drivers who are in possession of an open container. Note that California uses a broad definition of an “open container.” An open container is a receptacle of alcohol or drugs that:
- Was opened at any point.
- Has a seal that was broken.
- Was consumed either partially or completely.
This means that you could face a VC 23222(a) charge even if you have an empty bottle of alcohol in your vehicle and it applies even if you didn’t drink the alcohol while driving. You could pick up a discarded bottle by the side of the road to clean up litter and end up facing VC 23222(a) charges.
Exceptions to Open Container Charges in California
You should know that there are steps you could take to legally transport an open container in California. Technically, you are allowed to transport these containers if you have them:
- In the trunk of your car.
- In the bed of your truck.
- In a locked container.
You could also be allowed to carry previously opened containers of medical marijuana in some cases. However, you’ll need a valid doctor’s order in order to carry marijuana in this way. In other cases, you’ll need to keep in one of the approved locations in your vehicle.
Additionally, some “hired” vehicles do not face the same restrictions on carrying open containers. For example, limousine and bus drivers may not get a ticket for transporting an open container in all situations. Even taxi drivers could avoid these tickets in California. Find out more about these exceptions with a DUI lawyer. Just call (310) 997-4688.
Results of an Open Container Ticket
So, what happens if you get a ticket for transporting an open container in California? Carrying an open container is usually considered an infraction. This means that you face relatively minor penalties for a conviction.
The court system generally charges drivers a fine of up to $250 for transporting an open container. However, you could face more serious penalties if you had someone under the age of 21 in your vehicle. Carrying an open container of alcohol in a vehicle with someone under 21 is considered a misdemeanor.
You could end up facing six months of jail time after a conviction in this situation. You may also face fines of up to $1,000. A DUI lawyer will help if you are accused of this traffic violation.
Defenses for Open Container Tickets in California
You do not just have to accept an open container ticket in California. Take steps to defend yourself from these charges by reaching out to a lawyer for help. A member of a legal team will work to show that:
- You were carrying the container in an approved location
- You were traveling in an exempt vehicle at the time you were ticketed
- You were stopped by a police officer without probable cause
A lawyer will also work to show that a police officer performed an illegal search of your vehicle to find the open container. Police officers are not allowed to simply search your vehicle whenever they want. They require a warrant, your permission, or reasonable cause to believe a crime is being committed.
Get help handling charges for transporting an open container with a lawyer who will work to get your charges dismissed. Find out more right now.
Discuss the Severity of an Open Container Ticket with a Lawyer
How serious is an open container ticket in California? Sometimes, these tickets are minor and only lead to fines. In other cases, you could face misdemeanor charges. The Simmrin Law Group will help you in either situation. Contact one of our DUI lawyers in California for a free consultation to discuss your case.
Reach out to us by filling out our online contact form or by calling (310) 997-4688.