Can a Passenger Be Charged with a DUI in California?

Please be advised that the following topic is for informational purposes only and not a legal matter currently handled by our firm. If you have a serious injury claim and need legal representation, please contact us, but if need more information regarding this particular topic, you can contact your local Bar Association for a referral to an attorney who may be able to address your inquiry in more detail.

Would you be surprised to learn that passengers aren’t immune from DUI charges in California? That’s right! A passenger can get a DUI-related charge. It’s strange but true.

If this is news to you, please read on so you know how to protect yourself from this stressful situation. Most people assume they’re safe if they’re sitting anywhere other than the driver’s seat, but there are circumstances where passengers can get DUI charges.

When Can a Passenger Be Charged With a DUI?

You can’t be charged with a DUI simply because you’re in a car with a drunk or drugged driver. The driver is responsible for being sober and driving safely.

However, there are a few rare situations where a passenger might be charged with a DUI in the state of California. Below are a few examples.

  • You were underage and drunk as a passenger.
  • You were in possession of alcohol or drugs as a passenger.
  • The police aren’t sure which of you was actually driving the car.
  • You’re being accused of interfering with the driver while drunk.

These cases often arise due to confusion about what was happening in the car just before a police officer pulled you over. The officer might believe that you pulled on the steering wheel, did something to distract the driver, were holding an open container of alcohol, or even switched seats with the driver at the last minute.

Sometimes the officer decides to issue a DUI citation to a passenger because they don’t want to argue with you by the side of the road. They’d rather make you “tell it to the judge” in court.

Now it’s your responsibility to prove you don’t deserve a DUI. That’s a tough battle to fight!

What Types of DUI Charges Apply to Passengers?

As a passenger, you might not be charged with a DUI, strictly speaking. The officer could cite you for a related offense depending on what was taking place at the time of the stop.

You could have citations or charges like:

  • Public intoxication
  • Drug possession
  • Underage possession of alcohol
  • Possession of an open container of alcohol
  • Assault, if you hurt the car’s driver, another passenger, or the officer
  • Fleeing the scene, if you left instead of staying to talk to the officer

A passenger can ultimately owe fines, have a suspension or revocation of their driver’s license, face misdemeanor charges, or even face felony charges if the officer believes they did something severe enough to warrant them.

Your penalties will depend on the circumstances of the situation and whether you have previous offenses. There are various levels of penalties that may apply, from paying a ticket to being incarcerated in jail. Some cases are even dropped, which means you’re free and clear!

What Should I Do If I’m Charged With a DUI as a Passenger?

Keep in mind that a charge isn’t a conviction. If you’re charged with a passenger DUI due to any of the circumstances described above, the case against you may be too weak to secure a conviction.

This is why it’s so important to hire a California DUI lawyer who has experience with cases involving passenger DUI charges. Your lawyer may review the facts of your case and see that the case against you is extremely weak.

Depending on the situation, you may be able to get your charges dismissed entirely or reduced significantly. Your lawyer can show the authorities why you don’t deserve the maximum penalties. Even if there’s a strong case against you, your lawyer may be able to help you stay out of jail or avoid losing your driving privileges.

This is a scary and stressful situation, so please don’t face it alone. Contact us for a free consultation about being a passenger charged in a DUI crash. We have a long history of successful outcomes for people just like you!

We Handle Your Case So You Can Focus on Your Life

Contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of the law, including DUI accidents involving passengers. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering while we handle the legal details.

We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a free online case evaluation.

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We Handle Your Personal Injury Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life

After an accident, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many types of traffic injury claims. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details.

We truly care about the people of California. Contact us today for a
free online case evaluation.


It is essential to know your rights after a traffic accident so you can protect yourself and the value of your claim.
This guide will help you:

  • 1Know what to do when dealing with insurance claims, police reports and lawyers.
  • 2Avoid making mistakes that undermine the value of your claim
  • 3Put yourself in a position to get the best settlement possible