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Open Container Penalties in Illinois

Updated on March 15, 2023 → Under

There is a serious stance in the state of Illinois regarding driving and drinking that is meant to keep the driver, passengers, and road users safe. In the year 2014 hundreds of people in the state of Illinois lost their lives in a collision as a result of someone who was drinking and driving. It has been found that roughly 30% of road collisions that turn into fatal crashes are as a result of drunk driving. The fight against driving under influence in Illinois is a priority to the authorities.

Driving under influence has been outlawed in the Illinois legislature in order to make the roads safer. Having an open alcohol container anywhere in the passenger area or at the driver’s area is illegal despite the fact that the passengers or driver are under the influence.

An open alcohol container is not as serious an offense as a DUI conviction. Even so, driving a vehicle with an open alcohol container can have serious effects on your driving record and finances. You are likely going to face some serious open container penalties in Illinois if there is sufficient admissible evidence against you. With thousand f people getting convicted in past years transporting alcohol illegally is a common offense in the state of Illinois.

Most of the people that have been accused end up pleading guilty to the charges that they are facing without putting up a fight. You can avoid the penalties you are likely to get for driving with an open container if you hire a qualified Chicago criminal defense lawyer.

How Illinois Defines the Open Container Offense

Under 625 ILSC 5/11-502 when you transport or are in possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle you are in violation of a criminal offense that is known as an open container law. This law states that no driver or passenger should transport, possess, carry or even have alcohol on the passenger area of the motor vehicle by the highway in Illinois. The exception is if the bottle is the original container and the seal is closed.

This particular law has several exceptions. The exceptions for this law is when the vehicles in use are being uses in the below ordinary purposes:

  • Motor home or mini motor home passengers
  • Chartered bus passengers
  • Limousine passengers

The above exceptions are only applicable to the passengers and not the drivers of these particular vehicles.

There instances where you can be able to transport an open wine bottle that bought at a restaurant. It is necessary that the bottle be secured using a tamper-proof bag that is transparent. You should as well make sure have a receipt with you that will help you prove that you bought the bottle of wine at the restaurant.

When you want to transport a bottle of alcohol that is partially consumed of alcohol you should store it in an area where the passengers will not have access to it. In most instances, it will require the driver or passengers of the car to place the open bottle in the trunk of the car. If you have a cooler or any other container in the trunk of your car it is the safest option to put the open bottle since it will be out of reach to any passengers in the vehicle.

A man receiving an open container traffic ticket

Evidence that is based on the first impression is accepted as correct until proven otherwise. If for example, the driver of a vehicle had been at a restaurant drinking and they have a blood alcohol content that is below the illegal limit, that is 0.08 but after they were pulled over the police officer finds a bottle of alcohol at the back with passengers that are behind the vehicles partition there is a high possibility that the arresting officer will charge the driver with either drinking or driving or being in possession of an open container.

When you want to transport a bottle of alcohol that is partially consumed of alcohol you should store it in an area where the passengers will not have access to it. In most instances, it will require the driver or passengers of the car to place the open bottle in the trunk of the car. If you have a cooler or any other container in the trunk of your car it is the safest option to put the open bottle since it will be out of reach to any passengers in the vehicle.

It is important to know that for the law to be effective you must be driving on a public highway that includes a road or interstate. However, it doesn’t include an individual having an open container in a private parking lot. The passenger section of the car includes the passenger seats in the back, front, and the drivers section.

Penalties for Driving With an Open Container

In Illinois, according to the vehicle code in section 11-502, it is found illegal for an individual to be in possession carry or transport an open alcoholic container bottle in the passenger or in an area where the bottle of liquor is accessible in the car as earlier said. The bottle is considered to be broken if the seal is broken. If you have an unsealed container with you or an unsealed water bottle that has any amount of alcoholic content in it you can be charged even if you did not have a sip of what was in the bottle.

As earlier stated the only exception to this rule is if you are riding in a motor home, limousine, or chartered bus. However, you should note that the driver still should not have access to any open partially-consumed bottle that has alcohol in it.

It is considered a petty offense if an individual is caught driving with an open container. This is the least serious category of criminal offenses. Even so, the offender is likely to suffer harsh penalties such as mandatory license revocation. If the individual is convicted they can pay $1000 in terms of fines and risk getting jail time. Additionally, your license can get suspended. If you are getting convicted for a second time in the same year you face license revocation.

In the time that you are found transporting an open container of alcohol in your car during the time you are arrested for a DUI, you can be charged with two offenses. You can get drunk driving charges and another charge for being an individual in possession of an unsealed bottle while driving.

Getting charged for the offense can have a serious impact on your driving license. The penalty will be severe if you were a driver rather than a passenger in the vehicle.  According to the law in Illinois when you are an underage driver or 21 years at the time that you are violating this law a 12-month driver’s license suspension will be imposed on you if you are a first-time offender by the Illinois secretary of state.

A license suspension will as well be issued if you are at the age of 21 or more are getting convicted for the second time for the same offense within a period of one year. When you get convicted of the offense for a third time within the same year your driver’s license will get revoked. You will face additional penalties if your license has been revoked or suspended within a period of seven years.

This offense carries 25 points in your driving record. Together with the license consequences that an individual is likely to suffer an increase in their insurance rates, severe fines, and potentially high court costs. A person may as well have to serve a community service sentence that has been imposed by the judge.

Related: Driving With A Revoked Or Suspended License In Illinois

Medical Marijuana Open Container

Just like carrying alcohol in an open container is illegal the same case applies to transporting medical marijuana in an open container. In order for you to legally transport medical marijuana, it is necessary for you to carry a medical marijuana registration card. Also, medical marijuana should have an unbroken seal, should be secure, and inaccessible while being transported.

Medical Marijuana has been made available for recreational purposes. However, you should note that you will only be allowed to transport medical marijuana if you are 21 years old or older.

Medical marijuana open container

Also, when a passenger or driver violates the law that prohibits the use of and possession of Marijuana in a vehicle they will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This type of conviction carries with it a one-year jail sentence and a steep fine of $2500.

Some of the other penalties that an offender is likely to face include revocation of their medical marijuana card. The offender can as well lose their status as a cultivation center agent, medical marijuana caregiver, or dispensing organization agent for a period of two years.

Common Defenses to an Open Container Allegation in Illinois

When you get an experienced, qualified, and aggressive criminal defense attorney they can help defend you against the open container law in Illinois you are accused of violating. At Dohman Law Group here are some of the things that our qualified traffic attorneys will look for so they can present a solid defense:

  • That the authorities have no probable cause to arrest you. The police needs to have a probable cause to arrest you as well as reasonable suspicion to pull your car over.
  • Searching your vehicle improperly. If you had an open container in a visible place then the authorities have the right to seize it. If the container is not in plain sight the police should ask for you permission or otherwise get a warrant to search your car. Even so, there are exceptions.
  • There was no reasonable suspicion to be pulled over. If after investigation and the information you provide to your attorney they find out that a law enforcement officer had no reason to pull you over stopping you becomes a violation of your rights.
  • There was an unopened bottle that contains alcoholic liquor in the motor vehicle.

If our experienced traffic lawyers prove evidence of a violation of your constitutional rights they will move the court so the evidence from the violation can be suppressed.

Transporting Alcohol Legally

The Illinois open container law is meant to regulate how people transport alcohol. The law's purpose is not to forbid them from transporting alcohol in a legal and safe way.

Taxi drivers, limo drivers, delivery drivers plus other people on the job may be required to carry alcohol in their cars as they do deliveries. If you are aware of the applicable laws no matter who you are you can be able to get alcohol safely to your friends and family.

If you find it necessary to transport alcohol you should ensure that you do not store it in the passenger seat or area. The passenger area refers to the glove compartments as well as the car seats.

You should always transport alcohol in the rear or trunk of your vehicle. When you do that you can avoid being in violation of the container’s violation and as well be able to protect your vehicle’s upholstery.

It is important that you know all of the upholstery law regulations that concern your state. When it comes to the open container laws there are federal standards. Even so, every state has its own regulations concerning the law and each state law differs significantly from another state’s law. So you can protect yourself against a conviction it is best to equip yourself with knowledge about your state laws.

Transporting Alcohol From a Restaurant Premises

There are people that are not aware that buying alcohol from a restaurant, consuming it to a certain measure at the restaurant, and then carrying the remaining content with you may be unlawful. In Illinois wine is the only alcoholic beverage allowed to be carried out of a premise. A consumer is allowed to carry with them one unsealed bottle and another wine bottle that has been partially consumed but they can do that only if they have bought a meal and drunk a bit of the wine from the bottle from the restaurant or establishment. Also, here are some statements that apply according to the Illinois statute 235 ILCS 5/6-33a:

  • The wine being carried out of the establishment should be sealed in a clear one time use tamper proof bag by an employee working at the restaurant.
  • They should have a dated receipt for the wine provided to them by a restaurant employee
  • If the wine has been sealed in this way it can be legally transported in Illinois without any restrictions form the open container laws.
open container penalties

How an Illinois Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You

If you are to be convicted of illegal transportation of alcohol the prosecution should present evidence. The evidence should prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused had an open container with alcoholic content in the passenger area of a vehicle. The kind of evidence that will be presented in court will be open containers that were found in plain sight when your vehicle was being searched or the observations made by an arresting officer during a traffic stop.

The criminal defense lawyer will be able to challenge the evidence if:

The police officer that pulled you over did not have probable cause. Police will not pull you over at a traffic stop if they just have a hunch that you transporting alcohol illegally or that you are doing something wrong. The only time that the traffic officer will stop you is when they have a warrant or if they have a reason to believe that you may be engaged in illegal activity. Evidence that they collect during a traffic stop is not valid and should be removed from the prosecution's presentation.

The officer in charge of your arrest performed an illegal search in your vehicle. In the case where a police officer saw an open container on your sight in plain sight, the district attorney can use that as evidence in the case. Even so, under certain circumstances, a police officer is allowed to search your motor vehicle without a warrant. In the case where an officer searched your vehicle without your permission or without getting a warrant the evidence can be excluded from your case.

If you are in a situation where you are facing illegal transportation of alcohol charges or driving under influence charges you can contact a criminal defense law firm and seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney. Most people would like to avoid the loss of driving privileges since it is an inconvenience if they have to drive to work, school, or even drop the kids to and from school.

At Dohman Law group we have helped a lot of our clients to have their charges dismissed and we can do the same for you.  Call our criminal defense lawyers today to get a free initial consultation for your case.

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