Illinois Open Container Law and Public Consumption of Alcohol

Naperville criminal defense attorneys, open container lawIllinois’ laws surrounding alcohol and driving can be confusing, especially for residents who have lived out of state in the past, as each state has its own set of specific rules regarding alcohol. For instance, it is illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol in the state of Illinois. Illinois is one of 40 states that has such laws, while seven states have laws that prohibit only the driver, and not the passenger, from drinking while in a motor vehicle. Various other states do not have open container laws at all.

What Does the Law Specifically Say?

According to Illinois statute 625 ILCS 5/11-502, it is illegal for a driver to transport, carry, or possess any alcoholic beverage, including beer and wine, or to have it near the passenger area unless it is in its original container with the seal unbroken. The same laws pertain to the passenger of any motor vehicle, except when occupants of a limousine, motor home, or chartered bus. It is legal for a passenger to possess and drink from an open container of alcohol only when said limousine, motor home, or chartered bus is being used for its specific ordinary use. Additionally, the alcohol container is not permitted to be in the driver’s area. The alcohol must be separated from the driver by a closed partition or dividing window, and any evidence of consumption by the driver will be taken as prima facie evidence of violation of this statute.

Prima facie evidence is accepted as correct unless proven otherwise. For instance, if the driver of a motor home had been drinking at a restaurant, and his or her blood alcohol level was below 0.08 (the illegal limit), but he or she was pulled over and a container of alcohol was back with passengers behind the partition, the arresting officer could still charge the driver with drinking and driving or possession of an open container.

A conviction can result in a large fine, and two convictions within a year may result in a driver’s license being suspended. If the driver was under the age of 21, he or she will be charged with a minor in possession of alcohol and possibly have his or her license suspended for that first offense.

Taking Purchased Alcohol From a Restaurant’s Premises

People may be unaware that purchasing alcohol from a restaurant, consuming some at the restaurant, and walking away with the rest can be unlawful. The only alcoholic beverage that the state allows to be taken from a premises is wine. A patron is allowed to remove one unsealed and partially consumed wine bottle only if he or she has also purchased a meal and consumed some of the wine from the bottle on the premises of the restaurant. Additionally, according to Illinois statute 235 ILCS 5/6-33a:

  • The wine must be sealed in a clear, one-time use tamper-proof bag by a restaurant employee;
  • A restaurant employee must provide a dated receipt for the wine; and
  • Wine that is sealed as such can be transported legally in a vehicle without any of the restrictions of Illinois open container laws stated previously in section 11-502.

Contact a Lawyer Today

If you have been charged with illegal transportation of alcohol or any other alcohol related crime, call the Naperville criminal defense attorneys of Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC today. We are prepared to assist you with your case immediately.