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If you’re under age 21 and you’re stopped by law enforcement with alcohol in the car, you face potential jail time, fines and loss of driving privileges.
California Vehicle Code section 23224 declares it misdemeanor for those under 21 to knowingly driving a vehicle that carries or has alcohol in it or possessing or controlling alcohol in the vehicle . The crime occurs even if the container of alcohol remains unopened.
With one of our Los Angeles attorneys, you can find assistance in contesting a charge or lessening the punishments you may face. In particular, a number of defenses can help you avoid a conviction for violating California Vehicle Code section 23224:
Not all underage possession or transportation of alcohol in a car violates California Vehicle Code section 23224. The following are exceptions to the general prohibition:
* A parent of yours, a “responsible adult relative,” or legal guardian accompanies you or you’re accompanied by someone that your parent designates for the purpose of you having or transporting an alcoholic beverage. This usually happens if the qualified adult buys the beverage and you’re driving the vehicle.
* You timely follow the instructions of your parent, legal guardian, responsible adult or parent-designated adult in transporting the alcohol. For instance, the relative tells you to take unopened bottles of wine home from a gathering and you take them to the home without unnecessary detours or stops.
* You deliver alcoholic beverages during normal work hours in the course of your employment with a licensed seller of alcohol. For instance, you’re assigned to take cases of beer to a grocery store or an event at which alcohol will be served.
The exceptions will not help you if the alcohol is opened. When the seal is broken or bottle otherwise opened, the transport of the alcohol violates California’s “Open Container Law” set forth in sections 23221 to 23229 of the California Vehicle Code.
The prosecutor bears the burden of proving that you knew there was alcohol in the car. Thus, you may defend on grounds that the passenger concealed the alcohol or kept you from knowing that he or she had purchased some or was going to do so.
Yet, the circumstances can prove your knowledge of the presence of alcohol while you’re driving. These include, but are not limited to:
* Driving your passenger to a liquor store
* Evidence that a passenger has a fake driver’s license or identification card and you knew about the false license or card
In these situations, a prosecutor can argue strongly that you were aware that you’re passenger intended to purchase and did purchase alcohol.
A conviction for driving a vehicle with alcohol in it while under 21 can result in six months in a county jail, along with and a maximum $1,000 fine or impoundment of your vehicle for up to 30 days. Impoundment means that the vehicle is rendered unavailable for your use during a period of time.
The most serious consequence may lie in the loss of your driving privileges. Being convicted for transporting alcohol while under 21 can cause a one-year suspension of your driver’s license. For a not-yet licensed driver, conviction means potentially a one-year delay in the issuance of a driver’s license.
To underscore the significant impact of a conviction under California Vehicle Code section 23224, a one-year license suspension also applies to convictions by underage drivers for driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05 or higher.
You or your child should take a charge of possession of alcohol in a vehicle while under age 21 seriously. With the help of one of our Los Angeles attorneys who handle these types of California Vehicle Code cases, you may find yourself within an exception to the general prohibition or a lack of knowledge defense. Our lawyers can also explore the best possible results in saving your driving privileges and all that comes with the ability to drive.