Illinois’ laws on driving and alcohol are confusing, especially for those who have lived out of state in the past. Because each state has its own rules regarding alcohol. For example, in Illinois, it’s illegal to drive with an open container of alcoholic liquor. Illinois is one of 40 states that have such laws, various other states don’t have open container laws at all.
The criminal defense attorneys at Chicago Traffic Lawyers offer legal representation to clients charged with Illegal Transportation of Alcohol in Cook County, Kane County, Kendall County, Lake County, Will County, DuPage County, and throughout Illinois. Illegal transportation of alcohol is also referred to as the ‘open alcohol law’ or ‘open container law’. Our driver defense team can help you with any open container offense that you may be facing. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact our criminal defense law firm today at (708) 465-1040, or chat with us online to learn how we can help.
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What is the Open Container Law in Illinois?
According to the Illinois open container law, it’s illegal to have an open can or bottle of alcohol in the passenger section of a motor vehicle that’s being operated on a public highway. The only exception to this law is if the alcohol is in its original container and the seal is unbroken. This means you can’t have alcoholic liquor in an open bottle, a cup, an open can, or any other open container in your car. In Illinois, that’s Illegal Transportation of Alcohol even if you have consumed none of the alcohol.
It’s essential to note that you must be on a “public highway,” including a road or interstate. This doesn’t include having an open bottle or can in a private parking lot. The passenger section includes the driver, the passengers in the back seat area, and the passenger in the front area.
A violation of the Illinois open container law is considered a “petty” offense. This means you’ll only need to pay fines for violating this law. Also, you may be eligible for court supervision. Thus, after committing an open container offense you may avoid having a conviction on your driving record. However, it’s essential to note that two convictions for this offense within a one-year period can cause a driver’s license suspension.
An open container offense is more serious for drivers under the age of 21, underage drivers may also face a “possession of alcohol” offense or drunk driving charges, separate from the “illegal transportation of alcohol” charge. The first offense for an underage driver may have severe consequences on his or her driver’s license.
Thus, it’s in your best interests to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney whenever you’re facing an offense involving alcohol and your driving privileges are involved.
What Is the Fine for Open Alcohol in a Motor Vehicle in Illinois?
Again, possession of open alcohol in a car is considered a petty offense in Illinois, and it’s punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.
An open container offense can have a negative impact on your driver’s license, especially if you were driving the motor vehicle rather than a passenger. According to Illinois law, if you’re under the age of 21 years at the time of the open container violation, you’ll face a 12-month driver’s license suspension for a first-time conviction of this offense.
Also, the Illinois Secretary of State will impose a driver’s license suspension if you’re 21 years of age or older and you’re convicted of a second or subsequent time for the open container offense within one year. If you’re convicted for a third or subsequent time with open container offenses occurring within a 12-month period, you’ll be subject to a driver’s license revocation. There are additional open container penalties if have a previous driver’s license suspension or revocation within the last seven years.
Along with the potential driver’s license consequences, violating the Illinois open container law can also result in high potential court costs and hefty fines, and auto insurance rate hikes.
How Can an Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
For you to be convicted for illegally transporting alcohol, the prosecution must present evidence, which proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you had an open container in your motor vehicle’s passenger area. The evidence will probably be the arresting police officer’s observations during the traffic stop and any open containers that were in plain sight or found during a search of your car.
Your criminal defense lawyer can challenge this evidence if:
A police officer stopped you without probable cause. A police officer can’t just pull you over at a traffic stop on the hunch that you’re doing something wrong or transporting illegal content. The officer can only stop your vehicle if he or she has a warrant or if there’s a reason to believe that you’re doing something illegal. So, any evidence from an illegal traffic stop is inadmissible in court and must be removed from the prosecution’s case.
The arresting police officer performed an illegal vehicle search. If a police officer sees an open container in plain sight, for instance, on your seat, the prosecution office can use that evidence. However, only under limited circumstances are the police officers allowed to search your car for contraband. If the officer didn’t have probable cause or your consent to search your car, the evidence he or she gets from that search must be excluded from the case.
If you’re facing driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or illegal transportation of alcohol charges, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can help. At Chicago Traffic Lawyers, we’ve helped hundreds of our clients get their charges dropped or even dismissed, and we can help you keep a clean driving record. Call our Chicago law offices today at (708) 465-1040 and we’ll give you a free and confidential consultation for your case.
What are Some Defenses for Open Container Violations?
If you have been accused of breaking the law in Illinois, you can challenge those allegations and present a solid defense. Defending yourself against criminal charges is crucial if you want to protect your rights and future. Criminal violations can negatively affect your ability to secure housing, get a job, and operate a business. If your driving privileges have been revoked for life, this becomes even more challenging.
Any defense you provide in an open container case should explain or justify your alleged behavior. If your arguments are successful, the prosecution will struggle to build a strong case against you. Defenses that could be valuable in fighting open container violations include:
- You were the passenger in a limousine, which is exempted from the open container laws.
- There were no open receptacles in the vehicle.
- Alcoholic containers were open, but they were stored properly outside of the passenger area.
- Law enforcement officers had no probable cause to make a traffic stop.
Can I Transport Open Alcohol in the trunk?
Open container laws vary across states, although most states typically allow and prohibit similar things. Illinois statute defines what’s an open container and where these containers may be. According to Illinois law:
- Both passengers and drivers are forbidden from possessing any alcoholic beverage in the passenger area unless the alcoholic beverage is in its original container with an unbroken seal.
- A sealed and unopened bottle of liquor can be in the passenger area
- Open containers should be transported in the trunk or locked glove compartment of a vehicle. An unsealed or open receptacle with an alcoholic beverage should be transported in the vehicle’s trunk. An unsealed container with an alcoholic beverage should be transported behind the last upright seat of the car if the car doesn’t have a trunk.
- If a violating driver is under 21 years of age, he or she is subject to the loss of driving privileges
If you violated open container laws, in any way, a police officer may take your charges a step further. To keep aggressive prosecutors and police officers from charging you with crimes you didn’t commit, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Our Experienced Defense Attorneys Today for Legal Advice!
If you have received an Illinois open container ticket, contact our skilled criminal defense lawyers today to discuss the specific details surrounding the incident.
Our top priority is avoiding a conviction on your driving record and, often, you can contest these violations in court. Although evidence of what the law enforcement officer saw in ‘plain sight’ may be used against you in court, including an open container of alcohol, the police officer must have probable cause or consent before searching your vehicle.
We practice primarily throughout Cook County, Kane County, Kendall County, Lake County, Will County, and DuPage County. Contact our traffic lawyers in Chicago to review your case today by filling out our contact form or calling us at (708) 465-1040.