Is It a Crime to Drive With an Open Container in Chicago?

Drinking and driving can have devastating consequences. In 2014, there were 845 fatal car accidents in Illinois. Nearly 40 percent of those accidents involved alcohol. In an effort to combat drunk driving, Illinois has implemented a number of legal measures to deter and punish individuals for using alcohol and driving a car. Some of these measures apply even if you’re not legally drunk behind the wheel. You can face significant criminal penalties if you drive a car with an open container of alcohol.

Illinois Open Container Laws – 625 ILCS 5/11-502

Think twice before driving a car when there are any open containers of alcohol in your car. Illinois Vehicle Code Section 11-502 makes it a crime for any driver to “transport, carry, possess” any open alcoholic liquor in the passenger area. When is a container considered to be open? A container can be open even if it is fully contained by a lid inside of a bottle. Illinois law considers any container to be open if the original seal has been broken.

If you want to transport a partially-consumed bottle of alcohol you’ll have to store it in an area that is not accessible to passengers. In most cases, this will require putting open bottles in the trunk of a car. If you have a van or SUV, containing the open bottle in a cooler or another container in the rear of the vehicle (out of reach of any passengers) would be the safest option.

Open Container Penalties

Driving with an open container in the passenger area of a car is an infraction. Despite this classification, a conviction can have significant consequences. Penalties for having an open container of alcohol in your car can include fines, jail time, and community service. A violation of the open container law can also put your driver’s license in jeopardy. If you are (1) under the age of 21 or (2) have two or more violations in a one-year period, your license will be suspended.

Defending Open Container Violations

When you are accused of breaking the law in Illinois you have the right to challenge those allegations and present a defense. Defending yourself against criminal charges is incredibly important if you want to protect your future. Criminal violations can affect your ability to get a job, secure housing, and operate a business. If your driving privileges are revoked your life will become even more challenging.

Any defense you offer in an open container case should help to explain or justify your alleged behavior. When your arguments are successful, the state will have a difficult time building a strong case against you. Defenses that may be helpful in fighting open container violations include:

  • You were the passenger in a limousine, which is exempt from the open container rules.
  • No alcoholic containers were actually open.
  • Containers were open, but stored properly outside of the passenger area.
  • There was no probable cause to make a traffic stop.

Fighting Open Container Violations in Chicago

Have you received a citation for an open container violation in Chicago? While this violation may not be as severe as a DUI, it can still significantly affect your life. It is important to challenge the violation and do everything you can to protect your future. Hiring an attorney to handle your defense will increase the chances of success. Call former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney Gus Kostopoulos today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.

Kostopoulos Law Group
125 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 300A
Chicago, IL 60606

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