Q: Can I get charged for open container in Fresno? A: Yes!
Here's the law in Fresno and the rest of California for possession of open container in motor vehicle:
- No driver or passenger shall have in his or her possession, while in a motor vehicle upon a highway or other roadways, 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.
Ok, so what does that mean? Well, basically, if an officer finds that you have an open container of alcohol in your car, you will be charged. This is true whether you are the driver of the car or just a passenger in the car. You can be charged with open container even if you have not consumed any alcohol.
If charged, you will likely face a maximum fine of $250. Keep in mind, however, that if you are under the age of 21, you will face misdemeanor charges. As either the driver or the passenger, you could be sentenced to up to six months in jail and a fine for as much as $1,000. Along with these penalties, you may also have points added to your driving record. These points may quickly lead to even more negative consequences.
If you have been charged with open container in California, all is not lost! There are ways to avoid penalties. First, you should not be charged with open container if the container was in the trunk of car. If the vehicle does not have a trunk, you may be found not guilty if the alcohol was in a locked container or in a place that is not normally frequented by individuals.
Second, you cannot be charged if you are a passenger in a “hired” vehicle. Examples include taxis, limos, and buses. This will not apply, however, if there are minors in the vehicle. There may be an exception if the alcohol has been locked in some type of storage container. For instance, many limos have such storage capabilities.
Further, law enforcement is required to have probable cause in order to stop a vehicle. If there was none, the charge is unlawful. Courts will generally find that probable cause existed if there was a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed (for arrest) and that evidence of the crime is present in the place to be searched (for search).
A good example is the following situation: A driver is pulled over by Fresno law enforcement after the officer observed that the driver was speeding. If the officer observes an open container of alcohol upon approaching the vehicle, the driver can be charged with open container.
There are many different laws relating to various types of alcohol-related offenses. Along with open container, you may be facing misdemeanor or felony DUI charges as well. If you have been arrested for DUI in Fresno or the surrounding areas, contact my office as soon as possible.