Am I Responsible for a Passenger’s Drink?

Imagine you’re driving down the highway and police lights come on behind you. You pull over, and the police officer writes a $250 infraction for open container violation. You didn’t realize it, but one a passenger in the back seat was drinking from a flask during the ride. Now you wonder whether you’re responsible for a passenger’s drink.

What About the Backseat?

California law prohibits open containers of alcohol in any moving vehicle. It doesn’t matter if the drinks are in the front seat or the back seat. It doesn’t matter if the driver isn’t drinking. It doesn’t necessarily matter if the passengers are drinking. If there is an open beer can or a half-empty bottle of alcohol in the car, police can pull you over.

While movies and television may glamorize passengers drinking around a sober driver, doing so in real-life puts you at risk of multiple infractions. If there’s an underage person in the car, the driver or passenger could even face an expensive misdemeanor with potential jail time.

Can You Drink in an RV?

RVs may feel like miniature houses on wheels, but they’re vehicles just the same. Under California law, passengers may not drink in a moving RV, even if they are in a separate room from the driver. If police find an open bottle, it will almost certainly mean an infraction or worse.

Only licensed vehicles, such as commercial buses and limos, are exempt from open container laws. Passengers can drink so long as the driver does not. This allows some leniency for party buses and other luxury businesses.

If you’re facing an open container charge, you may want legal assistance. If you’d like an experienced Fresno criminal defense attorney from The Law Office of Brian C. Andritch to evaluate your case, don’t hesitate to send us an email or call (559) 484-2112.

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