Michigan Open Container Law

Michigan’s open container law forbids drivers from transporting any open alcohol containers. This law not only applies to the driver but also any passengers within the motor vehicle. In other words, if your friend for example opens a can of beer in your car while you’re operating the vehicle, this puts you at risk for legal trouble.

Unlike Michigan’s law for operating while intoxicated (OWI), an open container violation may be enforced even when a driver is sober.

This article covers various aspects involved with Michigan’s open container law. These aspects include: what defines an “open container,” legal penalties for this offense, and what you should do if you’re being charged with this offense.

Two open beer cans next to a set of keys representing open container law

Legal Definition

Open container laws vary from state to state. While the law seems straightforward, it is important to understand the exact language used and the potential exceptions to the rule.

The Michigan Vehicle Code defines an open container offense as:

“Transportation or possession of alcoholic liquor in open or uncapped container open or upon which seal broken; violation as misdemeanor; exception; subsections (1) and (2) inapplicable to passenger in commercial quadricycle; definitions.” (Michigan Legislature Section 257.624a,  MICHIGAN VEHICLE CODE (EXCERPT) Act 300 of 1949)

The Meaning of “Open Container”

Believe it or not, the phrase “open container” is a bit deceptive. There are many different ways that you might unknowingly violate this law.

In some cases, “open” means literally open, such as a beer with the top taken off. But “open” may also refer to any container whose seal is broken (such as a liquor bottle that has previously been opened).

The Meaning of “Motor Vehicle”

Michigan’s law targets drivers of “motor vehicles.” This begs the question: just what does the state mean by “motor vehicle?”

The law is very broad in this matter. It covers any kind of self-propelled vehicle on the road. When it comes to the highway, it covers all possible vehicles.

Cars are an obvious example of a motor vehicle. But this law also applies to things like Segways. It even applies to the kinds of pedal-based vehicles that are used as taxis in many parts of the country.

In short: if the thing can move and you’re on the road with it, make sure you aren’t transporting any kind of open containers.

Open Container Law Exceptions

Nothing is absolute, even when it comes to the law. If you absolutely must transport an open container of alcohol, you will be safe if you obey one of the following exemptions.

Generally speaking, it’s acceptable to keep open containers in areas where you cannot easily access it. This includes locked glove compartments, behind the seats in the far back, or in any other area far from drivers or passengers.

If you transport an open container in any other way, you may be subject to specific penalties related to this law.

What Are the Penalties?

In the eyes of the law, open container violations are considered misdemeanors. At most, you can be charged a $100 fine and sentenced to no more than 90 days in jail.

At the judge’s discretion, you may also forced into community service and/or a substance abuse program. And no matter what, you will get 2 points added to your driving record. If you get 12 or more points in 2 years or less, you may have your .

As a result, it’s highly recommended to consult with a criminal defense lawyer when facing open container violations.

Legal Protection

What if a simple mistake kept you from getting behind the wheel again? If you don’t understand the Michigan open container law, you could end up in serious trouble and end up with a criminal record that haunts your future.

If you are facing charges or simply want peace of mind, you don’t have to face this problem on your own. We can help you understand your case and prepare the kind of top-notch defense you deserve.

If you’d like to learn more about this issue, or require a consultation with one of our attorneys, contact us today.