Can a Passenger Drink Alcohol in a Vehicle?

Drinking as a Passenger

As a driver, you can be held liable if a passenger drinks alcohol in your vehicle. The rules controlling whether passengers can drink in a vehicle are called “open container” laws, and most states have them. In the eyes of the law, a passenger drinking is not the same as if the driver were drinking—which constitutes an obvious DUI—but it is still a violation that will get both driver and passenger a citation.

In California, it is not against the law to have alcohol in your vehicle, so long as the containers have not been opened. Any bottle of alcohol that has been opened will earn the driver an open container citation. Even a bag of empty bottles that you were planning to take to a recycling center can constitute a violation of the open container law depending on where the bottles are located. The law only applies to open containers held in the cab of the vehicle or anywhere that is accessible to the driver or passengers while the vehicle is in motion. Empty containers in the back of a truck or the trunk of a car, or anywhere that is inaccessible to the driver and passengers, are allowed.

The punishment for violating California’s open container law is a $250 fine levied on both the driver and the passenger. In addition to the fine, if you are cited for having an open container in your vehicle, your San Diego auto insurance rates will likely go up, and you risk losing any professional driver’s certifications you have.

There are several, common legal defenses against an open container citation. For example, if you were in a taxi, bus, limousine or another “hired” vehicle, the open container laws do not apply. Alternatively, if the police had no probable cause to stop the vehicle, any evidence they found becomes null and void.

If you’ve been cited for an open container ticket or have even received a DUI and are looking for affordable DUI insurance in San Diego, American Tri-Star can help. We understand that drivers make mistakes and offer low-priced insurance for drivers of all ages. Call us at (619) 325-0326 for a free quote today.