What Does Drinking Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle Entail?
It is illegal for anyone in the car, driver or passenger, to drink alcohol while in a motor vehicle on a public road. In order to be guilty of this crime, the following have to be true:
The passenger or the driver drank alcohol
At the time the alcohol was consumed, they were in a motor vehicle
They were on a highway
To clarify, a “highway” does not mean just a limited access freeway. A “highway” is any public road that is maintained by the public and open to the public for transportation.
the drive of the motor vehicle cannot be charged with drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle if only the passengers were drinking alcohol. Only those who were drinking alcohol would be charged.
Penalties for Drinking Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle
Drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle, or Vehicle Code 23221 VC, is an infraction. That means that the penalty for this infraction is a fine up to $250. While drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle is only an infraction for people age 21 and over, it’s a different story for those under 21.
Any underage passenger or driver that knowingly possesses or drinks an alcoholic drink faces a California misdemeanor. The potential penalties for this include:
A jail sentence up to 6 months
A fine up to $1,000.
Legal Defenses for Drinking Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle
Even though the penalties are minor for this crime, you shouldn’t have to be charged with something you’re not guilty of. Here are some of the most common legal defenses for drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle.
There is insufficient evidence.
It’s possible that a law enforcement officer claimed they saw you drinking alcohol in your motor vehicle when you weren’t. It’s also possible that the officer could have been wrong or lying.
You were not a public highway.
If you own a plot of land that has roadways on it that you maintain yourself, then you are free to drink alcohol while driving a motor vehicle on those roadways. Passengers are free to drink alcohol in a motor vehicle on these roadways as well – as long as the roadways are not maintained by the public and are not open to the public.
You were in a vehicle for hire.
Drinking alcohol while in a motor vehicle does not apply to vehicles that are hired out, such as limousines, party buses, and taxis. That exception does not include Uber or Lyft car services.
Fresno Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been given a citation for drinking alcohol in a motor vehicle, Charles Magill, an experienced criminal defense attorney, can help you fight the charges.