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What Does California Law Say about Open Containers in Vehicles?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017By Richard Alexander

Some people may be confused about whether or not it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in their car while driving. They may think that as long as the driver is not drinking or is not legally intoxicated, that is all that matters. These people are wrong.

It is indeed illegal to have an open container of alcohol, including beer, while a vehicle is being operated on a highway. An open container is “any bottle, can, or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.”

The law provides that an open container may only be kept in the trunk of a vehicle, or, in the case of a vehicle with no trunk, in a part of the car that is not normally occupied by passengers. This would normally refer to the area behind the last seat in a van or sport utility vehicle. The glove compartment or other enclosed storage compartment in a passenger area of the vehicle is not an acceptable location. In a camper, an open container may be kept in the living quarters.

This prohibition also applies to operation of a vehicle off-road on lands that are “open and accessible” to the public. The only place that a vehicle may be operated with an open container is on private land that is controlled by the owner and permission has been granted for operation of the vehicle.

The prohibition applies to off-road and traditional vehicles alike. When it comes to off-road vehicles, an open container may only be kept in a locked container that is secured by a padlock, key lock, combination lock or similar lock.

When it comes to responsibility, the owner of the vehicle is prohibited from allowing an open container in a vehicle. The driver of a vehicle owned by someone else becomes responsible when the owner is not present in the car.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, please contact Alexander Law Group, LLP immediately to discuss your rights. Call 888.777.1776 right now, for a free, confidential, and personal consultation with one of our attorneys or contact us online.

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