Illinois’s Open Container Laws

The laws and penalties for consuming and possessing open containers of alcohol and medical marijuana in a motor vehicle.

Illinois’s open container laws generally prohibit consuming or possessing open containers of alcohol or medical marijuana in a motor vehicle. However, alcohol-related open container violations are treated differently than those for medical marijuana. This article provides an overview of Illinois’s open container laws and the penalties for a violation.

Consumption and Possession of Open Containers of Alcohol

Illinois’s open container laws prohibit a driver and passenger from possessing any alcoholic liquor within the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a highway. The prohibition applies to all alcoholic liquor, unless it’s in the original container and the seal is unbroken.

Exceptions

Passengers generally can lawfully possess an open container of alcohol in a limousine, chartered bus, or motor home. However, the driver of such a vehicle is prohibited from consuming or possessing any alcohol in the driver’s area.

Another exception permits a person to transport a partially consumed bottle of wine in certain circumstances. A restaurant licensed to sell wine can allow customers who have purchased a full course meal to take one partially consumed bottle of wine home. And a licensed winery can allow customers to take one partially consumed bottle of wine home. However, this exception requires the restaurant or winery to:

  • securely seal the bottle of wine
  • place the bottle of wine in a clear “one-time use tamper-proof bag,” and
  • provide the customer with a dated receipt.

Penalties

Petty Offense. A violation of Illinois’s alcohol open container law is a petty offense. Petty offenses are punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. In addition to the fine, a driver who’s convicted of an open container offense for a second or subsequent time within a year may face a license suspension.

Underage Offenders. A driver who’s under age 21 and is convicted of violating the alcohol open container law may face a license suspension for a first offense. And a second or subsequent conviction results in mandatory license revocation.

Consumption and Possession of Open Containers of Medical Marijuana

Illinois law makes it illegal for a driver who’s a medical marijuana cardholder to use marijuana in the passenger area of a motor vehicle on a highway. But a driver or a passenger may possess medical marijuana in a motor vehicle if it is in a “sealed, tamper-evident” medical marijuana container.

Penalties

A driver or a passenger who violates the law prohibiting use and possession of medical marijuana in a motor vehicle commits a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction carries up to one year in jail and a maximum $2,500 fine.

Other penalties include revocation of an offender’s medical marijuana card for two years and revocation of an offender’s status as a medical marijuana caregiver, cultivation center agent, or dispensing organization agent for two years.

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