Michigan Open Container Law | Michigan Criminal Law Attorney

Open Container Law Michigan | Open Intoxicants Motor Vehicle

open container law in Michigan, drinking driving, dui lawyerA person in Michigan is guilty of a misdemeanor if they transport or possess alcoholic liquor in a container that is open or uncapped or upon which the seal is broken within the passenger area of a motor vehicles. However, the law passed by Whitmer during Covid may call this into question, and might provide a defense to your case.

Really? Are to-go Cocktails Legal?

To-go cocktails were illegal in Michigan before a new law passed on July 1, 2020. Previously, to-go cocktails would be considered open intoxicants in a motor vehicle, which is a misdemeanor in Michigan. Under the new laws passed by the Michigan legislature and signed by Governor Whitmer, bars and restaurants may now offer to-go cocktails and customers may take them away from the establishment from which they were purchased. Presumably, the majority of people will be driving to and from the restaurant or bar to grab their to-go cocktails.

The open intoxicants in a motor vehicle statute is found at Michigan Compiled Laws Sec. 257.624a. If you have a container with alcohol in it, here is what the law specifically requires:

  1. The container cannot be open and/or have a broken seal, if;
  2. The container is inside the passenger area and you are on a street or in a place open to the public.

An open or uncapped container must be in the trunk. If the vehicle does not have a trunk, then the container must otherwise be in a compartment separate from the passenger area of the car. It is generally ok to put an open alcohol container in a locked glove compartment provided there is no trunk, and if you have neither, then you can put the open alcohol container behind the last upright seat. Basically, you want to get it out of reach of the vehicle’s occupants and if possible placed in an area not normally occupied by the passenger or driver.

According to the House Passed Bills 5781 and 5811, to qualify as a legal to-go cocktail, the drink must:

  • be in a sealed container,
  • without perforations or straw holes,
  • be in a container less than one gallon in volume, and
  • have a label that says, “contains alcohol: Must be delivered to a person 21 years of age or older.”

Establishments must also, of course, check ID to confirm the purchaser is at least 21 years old.

Could I be Charged with Open Intoxicants if I Take a Cocktail Home from a Bar or Restaurant?

It’s important to remember the above rules if you purchase a to-go cocktail. The establishment must give it to you with a sealed container and without a straw hole. If you are stopped by the police while transporting a to-go cocktail purchased from a bar, you obviously can’t be drinking the beverage on the way to your destination.

It is also safest to make sure you don’t show any signs of tampering with the seal, taking off the top of the beverage, or consuming the beverage. If possible, it’s safest to store the beverage in the cargo area of the vehicle.

Finally, make sure you have a state-issued ID card on you at all times when you have alcoholic beverages. If you follow these guidelines, you should not be charged with open intox while with a to-go cocktail.

What are the Consequences of Michigan’s Open Container Law?

There are several consequences you could face if you are caught with an open alcoholic beverage in your vehicle. First, it’s a criminal misdemeanor charge that would be on your criminal background record permanently. You may also be ordered to do community service, pay a fine, and do an alcohol assessment at your expense.

Will my Driver’s License be Affected if I’m Convicted of an Open Container Violation?

barone-1-300x278If you are convicted of open container your driving record will be affected. A conviction is reported to the Secretary of State. On a first offense, the Secretary of State will add two points to your driving record. On a second offense within seven years, your driver’s license will be suspended for 30 days and restricted for 60 days. On a third offense, your driver’s license will be suspended for 60 days and restricted for 305 days.

Do I Need to Hire an Attorney for an Open Intox Charge?

The attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm can help you if you’re charged with this crime. If you are concerned at all about the potential consequences listed above, it is very important that you hire an attorney experienced in defending open intox charges. There are many issues that could provide a defense. For instance, the initial traffic stop may not have been legal. There also may be vehicle search issues in open intox cases. And even when the evidence isn’t in your favor, the attorneys at the Barone Defense Firm may be able to work out a deal with the prosecutor to keep the charge off your record.

Contact Information