Taking the Following Case as an Example
Let’s use the following case as an example. Cookie has invited a few friends over for a party. The plan is to drink a wine bottle before heading to dinner. Cookie has become the sober driver of the party, and she doesn’t want to be charged with a DWI, so she doesn’t have any wine. However, when the time comes for dinner at the restaurant, Cookie’s friends have still not finished the wine, and they bring their wine glasses to the vehicle. If a cop were to pull Cookie over, all of Cookie’s friends could be charged with drinking alcohol inside of a vehicle. Cookie, on the other hand, could not be charged because she hasn’t had anything to drink.
Where the Law Doesn’t Matter
Under California law, drinking inside of a vehicle doesn’t apply when you’re a passenger in a taxi, limousine or a bus. These have been licensed to carry passengers, and some other examples of legally drinking in a vehicle include renting a limousine or a party bus for a wild night out on the town.
Highways don’t always mean freeways. In fact, a “highway” classifies as any road that gets maintained for the public, and it has been opened to driving for everyone. One of the exceptions of this rule might be when you have a guy called Scott. Scott owns a luxurious and large private ranch where he maintains several of the paved roads throughout his ranch. He does this on his own budget, and Scott never made the roads available for everyone else to drive on. Scott and some of his ranch employees will sometimes drive guests down these roads, and many times, the guests will be drinking alcohol during the ride. In addition, the drivers do occasionally as well. However, under Vehicle Code 23221 VC, none of the people involved could be charged with a crime if they stayed on private ranch roads. The roads aren’t open to the public, and as a result, they don’t classify as a highway.
The Penalty for Drinking in a Vehicle
Under state law, California classifies this form of behavior as an infraction. This means the penalty against those who drink while inside a car will be a fine that can reach up to $250. However, while drinking inside of a vehicle might not classify as a big offense against those over the age of 21, it does take a more serious turn against minors. The penalty can be more significant for those caught while drinking under the legal age. For those under 21, anyone who has driven a vehicle and knows there’s alcohol in the car could be charged with, “Open container.” The only exception is if a guardian or parent was transporting this beverage to a workplace.
Drinking alcohol in a vehicle classifies as a misdemeanor under California law. However, this doesn’t mean the same thing as DUI where the person was drunk while driving. Those who drink alcohol in a motor vehicle could face six months in jail, and they could have to pay a $1,000 fine. Any driver caught drinking under 21 could face the harsh DUI laws of California where they will have their driver’s license suspended for up to a year. Consuming alcohol inside of a vehicle will have more relaxed penalties for adults, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight it. One of the most common defenses against alcohol in a vehicle is how there wasn’t enough evidence to convict.