What You Need to Know About Open Container Laws When Picking Up Drinks During the Pandemic

April 22, 2020

Open containers must be stored in an area of a vehicle that isn’t accessible to passengers.

What You Need to Know About Open Container Laws When Picking Up Drinks During the Pandemic

As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has eased certain restrictions on the sale of alcohol. Under these relaxed rules, bars and restaurants can sell beer, wine, and pre-mixed cocktails for both pick-up and delivery. With bars and restaurants closed under Governor Newsom’s Stay-At-Home order, this measure is designed to support the industry while slowing the spread of COVID-19.

This step is an important way for these industries to continue to earn money — and for Californians who are under the stress of the pandemic to be able to get an alcoholic beverage. However, as a DUI lawyer in San Bernardino, CA, there are certain risks associated with delivering and picking up alcohol.

Under California’s open container laws, it is illegal to drive with an alcoholic beverage that has been opened, even if the driver does not consume any of the drink. Whether the beverage has been partially consumed, is open, or the seal has been broken, it still counts as an alcoholic beverage. In most cases, a violation of this law can result in an infraction and a fine of up to $250. However, if you are a driver or a passenger under the age of 21, then it may be charged as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

In practical terms, this means that if you are picking up an alcoholic beverage from a restaurant or bar, then you must take certain precautions. The alcohol should be stored in the trunk of your car, but if you don’t have a trunk, then it can be stored in some other part of the vehicle that is not normally occupied by the driver or passengers. This cannot be the glove or utility compartment. If you don’t have a trunk, you may choose to store the alcohol in the bed of a truck or in a lockbox container.

Of course, if you do pick up alcoholic beverages from a bar or restaurant, you cannot drink them while driving. Doing so could result in both an open container and a DUI charge. Similarly, passengers should not drink alcoholic beverages while you are driving. You could be charged with an open container violation if they do so.

If you are charged with this offense, a skilled DUI lawyer in San Bernardino, CA can help. There are many potential defenses to the charge. For example, if there were 4 people in the car and the open bottle of alcohol is in the passenger compartment of the vehicle, prosecutors would have to prove that you possessed the alcohol (i.e., it was on your person or under your control). Your attorney can mount this or other defenses based on law or facts.

At the Chambers Law Firm, we represent individuals who have been charged with a range of DUI-related offenses. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or info@orangecountyduifirm.com to schedule a free initial consultation.

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