Obviously, this is a crime that is prosecuted quite often and not just the person who has the alcohol who is under the age of 21 will get prosecuted.
It's defined under California Vehicle Code 23224. See related possession of alcohol beverage by someone under 21 described in CALCRIM 2960. Also, related is the open container law in California under Vehicle Code 23222(a).
A lot of times the driver of the vehicle will be prosecuted as well for an open container. So, it really has a wide sweeping effect.
Police will swoop up on people who are drinking at the party for example, make everybody get out of the car, search everybody, end of searching the car.
Then when they find alcohol, they're going to issue a citation to the driver. They'll issue a citation to the person with the alcohol and investigated for an underage DUI charge.
Impact on California Driver's License
Probably the biggest implications if you're under the age of 21 and you get a citation for drinking in a vehicle is, you'll probably end up not being able to get your driver's license if you don't have one for a period of time.
If you do have a driver's license, there's a good chance that your driver's license is going to end up being suspended and you will have to wait six months to a year to be able to drive.
A lot of times in Los Angeles County for these cases where minors are drinking in a vehicle, the individual will be sent to one of the juvenile courts.
Now, a lot of times we're seeing, especially in Los Angeles, the probation department dealing with these cases.
They will put people through programs, suspending people's licenses and really just giving them a hard time to drive since they know that most of the accidents are caused by minors.
This is especially true for minors who are drinking alcohol when they're not 21 yet.
Those minors also tend to drink alcohol and drive and people end up getting killed or injured or in an accident or getting some sort of a traffic violation.
So, if you have a son or a daughter who is charged with either an open container or possessing alcohol in a vehicle being under the age of 21, if they have any type of a court proceeding where they're entitled to an attorney, my suggestion is you definitely get the attorney.
Penalties for Possession of Alcohol In Vehicle Under 21 Years Old
I've represented a lot of minors. I've been able to get people a pretty good resolution where they don't actually lose their license under the right circumstance.
Obviously, if you have a minor who is under the age of 21 who is driving a vehicle and drinking, that minor is likely to lose their driver's license for a year with no restriction.
But sometimes, depending on how high the blood alcohol level is, we are able to avoid a criminal charge against that particular minor which obviously is significant because nobody wants to get a mark on their record, especially one involving alcohol.
Defenses for Under 21 Alcohol in Vehicle Charges
So, if your child has been caught with alcohol in a vehicle and they're under the age of 21, maybe there's another issue which is the police either illegally stopped or searched the car without anybody's consent or without probable cause.
But if the police drive by and they see minors drinking alcohol in a vehicle or it looks to them that minors are drinking alcohol in a vehicle.
If the minors are hiding the alcohol from the police, that's likely going to give the police probable cause to order everybody out of the car for officer safety.
Then, they will search the car, search all of the individuals and whatever they find, they're likely to arrest the person and call their parents, especially if they're under age, and a lot of times if they're adults, they'll send them into adult criminal court.
If they're juveniles, they'll give them a citation and that person will either end up in the juvenile court or will end up dealing with the probation department deciding whether or not they're actually going to send them into criminal court with a petition.