What Happens If You Find an Uncapped Liquor Bottle in a Car in California?

California has laws regulating the possession of a bottle of alcohol in a vehicle and consuming alcohol while driving. These laws are intended to prevent drivers from drinking and driving and to keep the roads safe.

In California, it is illegal to have an uncapped bottle or can of alcoholic beverage in a vehicle.

What is the penalty for having an open bottle of alcohol in a vehicle?

If you are pulled over by police officers in California and you have an uncapped bottle of alcohol in your vehicle (and you are over 21), you can be fined up to $250.

For those under 21 years of age, this penalty is considered a 'misdemeanor' in a different context. This can be punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or imprisonment for up to six months.

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Alcoholic liquor may not be kept in the vehicle in any glass, uncapped bottle or flask as well as in the bottle.

What are the conditions for a bottle of alcohol in a vehicle to be considered open?

The conditions that cause the cap of the bottle found in the vehicle to be considered 'open' are stated as follows:

  • Part of the drink is missing from the bottle/glass,
  • The seal has been opened,
  • The lid is open.

Here, the fact that the cap of the bottle is 'open' and some of the liquor is missing means that the seal has been broken and some of it has been consumed.

If the uncapped bottle or glass is out of the driver's reach, for example in the trunk, it can be carried in the vehicle and no action will be taken. However, the main criterion here is whether the driver has access to the bottle or glass.

There are exceptions to California's ban on carrying a liquor bottle in a vehicle.

The exception to this is that passengers traveling in vehicles such as limousines, taxis or buses may have an open bottle of alcohol in the passenger seat.

This penalty cannot be applied if the bottle belongs to another person in the vehicle. If the bottle or glass with an open lid does not belong to the driver of the vehicle, the driver will not be fined.

Whatever the case, if you have an open bottle of alcohol in your vehicle, the police may ask you to blow into a breathalyzer and suspect that you are driving under the influence.

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