Drinking Alcohol in a Vehicle in California
Regardless of whether you drive, everyone must and should be aware of the laws regarding drinking in a motor vehicle. Impaired or drunk driving is dangerous and can result in injuries or the loss of lives. To prevent any such situations, the law prohibits the drinking of alcohol in a motor vehicle by not only the driver, but also all passengers. A passenger may think they are immune from legal penalties if they drink in a car; however, they are just as answerable.
The Necessary Elements to Prove in Court
According to the California Vehicle Code 23221, it is illegal to drink alcohol while in a motor vehicle. If a driver or passenger is charged with this crime, the prosecution must prove one of two legal elements; the defendant must have been the driver and was drinking alcohol while in a vehicle that was on a highway or the defendant was a passenger who was drinking while in the vehicle on the highway. There are two possible exceptions to the vehicle code; a defendant is not guilty if the alleged scenario took place on a private road or occurred in a motor vehicle licensed to carry alcohol.
What Happens if You’re Guilty?
Violating California Vehicle Code 23221 does not result in a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction. Instead, if the defendant is found guilty of this crime, they face an infraction. The infraction can result in a $250 fine. If the defendant was below the age of 21, they face a misdemeanor with possible jail time.
While this offense will result in an infraction for most people, it can be linked to other possible charges. For example, minors may face additional penalties for having alcohol or a person can face a DUI charge if their drinking also met the legal elements of that crime.