Driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol is illegal in Illinois when your faculties are impaired or if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at or above .08 percent. Most people – whether you are of age to drink or not – know this, but what many people don't know is this: an open container in your vehicle can also get you arrested even if you don't have a drop of alcohol in your system. This is known as the Open Container law.
At Dolci & Weiland, we represent clients in Cook County and DuPage County who have been charged with DUI crimes as well as an open container offense. Being charged with an open container violation, however, is not as serious as DUI charges – a conviction can result in steep fines but not jail. Jail often results when other crimes are charged alongside the open container offense.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss the unique circumstances of your case. In the meantime, here's an overview of Illinois's open container law.
How Does Illinois Define the Offense Known as Open Container?
Transportation or possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle, an Illinois criminal offense also known as open container law, is governed by 625 ILCS 5/11-502. Under this law, no driver or passenger:
may transport, carry, possess or have any alcoholic liquor within the passenger area of any motor vehicle upon a highway in this State except in the original container and with the seal unbroken.
There are exceptions to this law. These exceptions include the following when the vehicles are used in for there ordinary purposes:
- passengers of a limousine;
- passengers of a chartered bus; and
- passengers of a motor home or mini motor home.
To be clear, the exceptions apply only to the passengers and not the drivers of the above-bulleted vehicles.
In some situations, you may also be able to transport an open bottle of wine you purchased at a restaurant. The bottle must be secured in a transparent and tamper-proof bag. You must also have the receipt with you to prove you purchased it at a restaurant.
What Penalties Can Be Expected if Convicted of Open Container?
A violent of the open container law is usually charged as a petty offense. A conviction, therefore, can lead to a fine of up to $1,000 but no jail time.
If, however, you are were under the age of 21 at the time of the arrest or are arrested a second time for the same offense within one year, your driver's license will be suspended.
Medical Marijuana Open Container Law in Illinois
Like alcohol, it is also unlawful in Illinois to transport an open container of medical marijuana. To transport it legally, you must carry a medical marijuana registration card and medical marijuana must be:
- sealed, and
- inaccessible during transport.
In 2020, marijuana will be available legally for recreational use. You will also only be permitted to transport marijuana if you are 21 years old or older and the marijuana is secure, sealed, and inaccessible during transport.
Are there Defenses to an Open Container Allegation in Illinois?
You can defend against a charge that you violated the open container law in Illinois with the help of an aggressive, smart criminal defense attorney. At Dolci & Weiland, our attorneys will look for things like:
- unreasonable suspicion to have been pulled over – if the police had no real reason to pull you over, then the traffic stop was a violation of your constitutional rights
- improper search of your vehicle – if the open container was in plain sight then the police have the right to seize it, but if it wasn't, then the police must have your consent or else obtain a warrant (unless there's a viable exception)
- no probable cause to arrest – the police must have probable cause to arrest you, and this bar is higher than the reasonable suspicion necessary to pull you over.
If any violation of your constitutional rights is found, we will move the court to suppress the evidence that flowed from the violation.
What Should You Do If Charged with an Open Container Offense in the Greater Chicago Metro Area?
At Dolci & Weiland, we are committed to our clients and believe that each deserves a comprehensive, aggressive defense. If you have been charged with an open container offense, contact our office. We will review your case with you and outline what your best options are. We believe in honesty and direct answers so you can make informed decisions. Reach out to us online or at 630.261.9098.