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Do You Let Your Passengers Drink in Your Car? A Look at California's Open Container Law

Most California drivers are aware that it is illegal to drink alcohol while driving, but do you know that it is also against the law to allow your passengers to have open containers of alcohol?

Below is the California law (California VC 23223) regarding open containers of alcohol:

  1. No driver shall have in his or her possession, while in a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands, as described in subdivision (b) of Section 23220, any bottle, can, or other receptacle, containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened, or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.
  2. No passenger shall have in his or her possession, while in a motor vehicle upon a highway or on lands, as described in subdivision (b) of Section 23220, any bottle, can, or other receptacle containing any alcoholic beverage that has been opened or a seal broken, or the contents of which have been partially removed.

The good news is that open container violations are generally only an infraction and will not result in jail time.

For those under 21, however, the law is much more severe. Under California's zero tolerance law, having an open container will result in a one-year license suspension.

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