California Vehicle Code Section 23224 VC: Possession Of Alcohol In A Vehicle By A Person Under 21

1. Definition and Elements of the CrimePossession Of Alcohol In A Vehicle By A Person Under 21

While many of the offenses involving possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle are infractions, when the driver or passenger is under the age of 21 this conduct is a misdemeanor under California Vehicle Code Section 23224 VC. Because those under 21 cannot legally purchase or possess alcohol, the penalties for possessing alcohol in a motor vehicle are understandably more severe for them.

Under California Vehicle Code Section 23224 VC:

  1. No driver under the age of 21 can knowingly drive any vehicle carrying an alcoholic beverage, with certain exceptions.
  2. AND no passenger under 21 can knowingly possess or have control over an alcoholic beverage, again with certain exceptions.

Both drivers and passengers under 21 are exempt from criminal liability if they were accompanied by a parent, responsible adult relative, or other person designated by a parent or guardian for the purpose of transportation of the alcoholic beverage or were following the reasonable instructions of one of these persons. Additionally, drivers under 21 who are unaccompanied cannot be held liable for this offense if they were transporting alcohol as part of their regular employment during normal hours.

2. Related Offenses

Similar offenses include the following:

  1. Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs - California Vehicle Code Section 23152(a) VC
  2. Driving with a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 Percent or Higher - California Vehicle Code Section 23152(b) VC
  3. Drinking in a Motor VehicleCalifornia Vehicle Code Section 23221 VC
  4. Possessing an Open Container While Driving – California Vehicle Code Section 23222 VC
  5. Under 21 DUI with Any Measurable Amount of AlcoholCalifornia Vehicle Code Section 23136 VC
  6. Under 21 DUI with Blood Alcohol Content Between 0.05 and 0.07 PercentCalifornia Vehicle Code Section 23140 VC
3. Examples

An 18 year old man wants to go out with a group of friends in his new car. While the man does not drink, his friends bring a bottle of vodka in the car and take shots while driving around. Even though the man did not drink anything, he could be charged with possession of alcohol in a vehicle while under 21 in violation of California Vehicle Code Section 23224 VC.

In another example, a 20 year old woman is asked by her mother to bring a bottle of wine from the house to a special event she will be attending. The woman agrees and puts the bottle in her trunk. This woman would not be criminally liable under California Vehicle Code Section 23224 VC because the statute specifically allows her to transport alcohol if reasonably instructed to by a parent.

4. Defenses to Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle by a Person Under 21

If the driver or passenger is accompanied by a parent, relative over 21 or other designated adult or if they are acting in accordance with their job, they would not be criminally liable for this offense. Additionally, if a driver or passenger does not know that another passenger possesses alcohol, they would not be guilty.

5. Penalties

Possessing alcohol in a vehicle by a person under the age of 21 is a misdemeanor that is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 court fine. Anyone convicted would also lose his or her driver’s license for a year. In addition, if the vehicle used is registered to an offender under the age of 21 the vehicle can be impounded for between one and thirty days at the owner’s expense.

6. Criminal Defense for Possession of Alcohol in a Vehicle by a Person Under 21

If you or a loved one have been charged with possession of alcohol in a vehicle by a person under 21, it is crucial that you speak with a Los Angeles DUI Attorney right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles DUI Lawyer Michael Kraut has handled charges like this from both sides of the aisle. Mr. Kraut is highly respected throughout the court system as a tenacious litigator who possesses a detailed knowledge of criminal law and procedure.

For more information about possession of alcohol in a vehicle by a person under 21, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles DUI Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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