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Is Drinking in Public Illegal in California?
Open Container Laws in 2024

It is illegal to drink alcohol outside of a licensed venue in California. So if you’re at a park, walking down the street, or at any other public space with an open container, you may be cited or taken to jail if you’re caught.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt
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Open Container Laws in California

California law BPC 25620 states that it is an infraction for any individual to possess an open alcohol container in any public place. This applies to any can, bottle, or other receptacle that has been opened, or seal was broken, or the contents have been partially removed. The term “public” means any city or county park, city or county-owned public place, recreational district, or open space district.

Are There Any Exceptions?

There are 2 exceptions to California’s open container laws:

  • 1. Where a license was issued to possess alcohol, such as obtaining a license for a party at a park where beer would be present, and
  • 2. Where possession of the alcohol container was for the purpose of recycling; such as carrying a bag of empty beer cans to redeem their CRV (California Redemption Value).

What is a ‘Drunk in Public?’

Under California Penal Code Section 647(f) PC, it is a misdemeanor to be drunk in public. Also referred to as public intoxication, 647(f) PC covers a variety of drunken behavior, from picking fights to being passed out on a sidewalk.

Can You Drink Alcohol on Your Front Lawn in California?

You can drink alcohol in your front yard in California so long as you remain on private property, but you can not legally consume alcohol in front of your house on a sidewalk.

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What is the Penalty for Drinking in Public in California?

Under California law BPC 25620, public Intoxication is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or a fine and imprisonment.

Does Public Intoxication Stay on Your Record?

Due to the fact that public intoxication is a misdemeanor crime in California, it will result in a permanent criminal record if you are convicted. Future employers, professional licensing agencies, graduate schools, and anyone who performs a background check will be able to see the conviction.

Could I be Charged With a DUI if I Live on Private Property?

If you are in your driveway and you live on private property, you cannot be arrested unless the police have seen you driving on public roads (such as when they followed you home from a bar). However, if you are charged with DUI and the officer did not observe you driving, you may be able to have the charges dropped.

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