Strategic Defense
From A Former Prosecutor

Having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle can complicate DUI charges

On Behalf of | Aug 7, 2023 | Drunk Driving

California has some of America’s strictest driving under the influence (DUI) laws. Even for a first-offense conviction, you can face up to $2,000 in fines and assessments, plus months of license suspension and jail time.

While an officer can charge you with DUI if a traffic stop test reveals your blood alcohol content (BAC) level was at least .08%, they’ll also look for other clues about your alleged impairment. One dead giveaway is having an open container of alcohol within your reach during the traffic stop.

Open alcohol containers are illegal

Per California law, it’s illegal for drivers to have a container with an alcoholic beverage that has been opened or the contents have been partially consumed while driving on the highway. The only time the law permits the transport of an alcohol container is if it is kept in the vehicle’s trunk or another space not occupied by the driver or passengers, such as a glove compartment.

If an officer finds that you have an unsecured open container of alcohol next to you after pulling you over, they can issue you an infraction, which carries a maximum $250 fine.

Open containers and DUI charges

Suppose an officer finds an open container of alcohol next to you during a traffic stop. In that case, they can present the information as evidence against you during your court hearing over your DUI charges. Even if your BAC barely reaches .08% during testing, prosecutors might be able to use the open alcohol container’s presence to ensure your DUI charges stick. The court can also enhance your penalties as a result, and you might have to serve mandatory jail time if convicted of DUI.

The penalties for a first-time DUI offense in California are already severe, but having an open container at the time of the traffic stop could pin even more blame on you. You might want to carefully consider your legal options before attending your hearing.