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Grand Rapids Open Container Laws

In the City of Grand Rapids, and the rest of Michigan for that matter, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your motor vehicle. If you need to travel with an open container, including returnable that once contained alcohol, it’s best keep them in the trunk of your car where they cannot be easily accessed.

Open Container Regulation

For whatever reason, our Federal Government has seen fit to tie open container laws to highway funds. The law that makes this connection is called the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), and this Act provides the guidelines for each state’s open container laws.

Michigan’s open container laws are arguably designed to discourage drinking and driving. Regardless of why we have these laws, if you are found in possession of an open container in a moving vehicle in Grand Rapids, then you are likely to receive a ticket. In Michigan, the open container law is a misdemeanor, and the penalties for having an open container may include fines and possibly some jail time. You should speak with an experienced lawyer for more information on the potential penalties in your case.

Definition of an Open Container

In evaluating the law you may first wonder what exactly the law considers to be an open container? The word “container” applies to any can, bottle, jar, cup, or receptacle that is used to hold alcohol. The type of alcohol it contains is not relevant. What is relevant is whether the seal is broken and can be readily consumed by a person. If so, then it is considered to be an open container.

The definition of “open container” is potentially very broad, and the law does not require a minimum amount of alcohol to be present in the container. This is why an empty bottle of beer in your back seat, one intended for the “returns” pile, can land you in front of a judge.

Determining if Alcohol is Present

In most open container cases the determination of whether alcohol is present is made based on a combination of the type of container at issue, and the officer’s nose. If it smells like alcohol, you are likely to get a ticket, and if there’s liquid in a bottle of booze, without testing, you’re likely to get a ticket. Sometimes officers will use a portable breath tester to “test” the air above the liquid. Your lawyer should be sure that the prosecutor will be able to prove the liquid contained alcohol. If such evidence is lacking, then your case might be a good candidate for trial.

I Can Have a Trial for My Grand Rapids Open Container Ticket?

Yes, because having an open container in your car is a crime, in this case a misdemeanor, you have an absolute right to trial. Having a right to trial doesn’t necessarily mean a trial is in your best interest. If you are unsure if you should plead guilty or stand trial be sure to discuss this matter thoroughly with your Grand Rapids Open Container lawyer.

In many cases, open container violations go hand in hand with driving under the influence (DUI) violations. In Michigan, drivers over the age of 21 may be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol content is .08% or higher. The penalties for drunk driving include jail time, probation, fines, community service, and the loss of driving privileges.

Contacting an Attorney

Do you have questions about Michigan open container laws? If so, contact The Barone DUI Defense Firm for a free case evaluation. By filling out our online case information form, you will also receive a copy of The Michigan DUI Book (A Citizen’s Handbook on Fighting a Michigan DUI Case).

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