Open Container Laws in Chicago

wil-stewart-24563-copy-300x200Public consumption is a controlled activity. The laws relating to public intoxication in Chicago are designed for the express purpose of protecting the public from the effects of alcohol and other drugs. In any case, anyone that is caught with a DUI and a blood alcohol level that exceeds 0.08 is immediately liable for prosecution. The open container laws mean that you can be charged even if you did not consume the product. The implicit assumption is that there is no other legitimate reason for opening a container of alcohol unless you intend to consume it. Clever defending attorneys may try to play about with the syntax of the statute but the spirit of the law is clear.

The statute states that it is illegal to transport, carry or possess any container with alcohol when they are within a passenger area of a car whilst on a highway. Those who are still opening cans of beer and placing them in the cup holder as they drive are actually committing an offense, even if they can prove to the court that they never actually drank the alcohol. Even more heinous is the idea of holding the can in one hand whilst driving. Not only does that break the rules on public consumption of alcohol, but it is also potentially dangerous driving, which is taken seriously by the courts.

A Complex Law that Captures Both Drivers and Passengers

Passengers have the same restrictions as the driver and cannot mount a successful defense to the effect that they were not actually in charge of the vehicle. In other words, drinking whilst someone else is driving in Chicago is breaking the law and some local ordinances. There are exemptions where the alcohol is in the car but the seal is not broken because the person could be just transporting it to another venue. In this respect, Chicago differs from states like Pennsylvania where carrying any alcohol in car regardless of whether the container is open or closed, is illegal. Other exemptions apply to chauffeured cars where the passengers are in the back. Examples include limousines and chartered shuttles. The key is to keep the alcohol well away from the driver.

One of the consequences of being caught and successfully prosecuted is the loss of driving privileges. This may be for a given period of time but it also includes some level of endorsement on your record to show that you have committed this offense. This is not a law here breathalyzer tests are necessary. All that has to be proved by the prosecutor is that there was an open can within a car and that you are the one that was either driving or the passenger. Of course if you are a driver, a DUI test may be called for in order to ascertain whether the prosecutor can press other charges.

Rationale for the Law

Making drunk driving an offense took a long time because people assumed that it was their civil right to be able to drink as and when they wished. The law seemed to be an infringement on their rights. On the other hand, public safety issues are paramount when designing legislation. Any act that threatens the safety of the public has to be dealt with harshly in order to deter future infringements. It is not a circular argument but one which is rooted in the right of the government to control behavior through public policy. Over time it has become clear that many members of the public support such measures. Regulation of alcohol consumption is a recognized administrative measure,  particularly when it comes to parks and beaches. Call David Freidberg Attorney at Law now at 312-560-7100 to get the legal help you deserve.


(image courtesy of Wil Stewart)