Open Container Law
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The Illinois open container law forbids having an open can or bottle of alcohol in the passenger area of a car that is being operated on a public highway, except if it is in the original container and the seal is unbroken. In other words, you can’t have alcohol in a cup, an open bottle, an open can or any other open container in your vehicle. This is considered Illegal Transportation of Alcohol in Illinois even if you have not consumed any of the alcohol.
It is important to note that you must be on a “public highway” which would include a road or interstate. This would not include having an open can or bottle in a private parking lot. The “passenger” area would include the driver, the front passenger, and the passengers in the back seat.
A violation of the Illinois open container law is a “petty” offense, meaning you are facing a fine only. This offense is court supervision eligible. This means you may be able to avoid a conviction on your driving record. However, it should be noted that two convictions (not involving court supervision) for this offense within a “one year period,” will result in a suspension of your driver’s license.
This offense is more serious for a driver under the age of 21, as such a person may also be subject to a “possession of alcohol” offense or DUI, separate from the “illegal transportation of alcohol” charge. The first offense for a driver under the age of 21 may have adverse consequences on his or her driver’s license.
It is advisable to consult an attorney whenever an offense involving alcohol and your driving privileges are involved.
Illinois Open Container Law FAQ
Does this offense apply if I am in a limousine, motor home, or “party bus?”
Answer: There is an exception for passengers in these types of vehicles, as long as you do not have an open container near the driver’s area.
Does this offense apply if I have an old bottle of liquor in my car that was previously opened and I forgot about it?
Answer: Yes, an officer has legal authority to charge you with this type of offense if there is a bottle of liquor with a broken seal in the passenger area. Your intent to not have the liquor in the vehicle or that you forgot may be considered by the judge, but the law does not allow this as a defense.
Does this offense apply if I have an empty can or bottle in my vehicle?
Answer: It is common for police officers to charge an individual with this type of offense (especially if a DUI is involved), even if the bottle or can is empty. However, courts have stated that there must be SOME amount of alcohol or liquor in the can or bottle. An empty can or bottle may be a reason to fight such a charge.
Does this offense apply if I have a bottle with a broken seal in the trunk of my car?
Answer: No, the bottle or can must be in the passenger area of the vehicle.