Open Container Laws in Michigan

Under Michigan’s open container law, you can be fined $100 for having any opened container of alcohol in your car and may have your license suspended.
Written by Nathan Porceng
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
background
Under
Michigan
’s open container law, you could receive a $100 fine or mandated community service/alcohol counseling for having any uncapped alcohol container in your passenger area.
Open container laws vary across the United States. Whether you’re moving, traveling, or just haven’t given open container laws much thought, it’s important you know and understand how to comply with your state’s laws. 
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What is the open container law in Michigan?

Section 257.64a
of the Michigan Vehicle Code, effective since 1992, covers “Transportation or possession of alcoholic liquor in an open or uncapped container.” According to the code, you can get a citation if: 
  • You have an uncapped or open container—like a can, bottle, or cup—containing any amount of alcohol in your car
  • The container is in the passenger area of the car—the area designed for seating
  • You are on a public highway or any area open to the general public, driving or parked
Put simply, you are not allowed to transport alcohol in Michigan unless it is sealed or stored in the trunk or other compartment not normally occupied by passengers. Don’t have a trunk or separate compartment? Try storing unsealed alcohol containers in a locked glove compartment or behind the last upright seat. 
Even if you’re the driver and the container belongs to one of your passengers, you may still be charged with a misdemeanor.

What counts as an open container?

Michigan’s vehicle code specifically defines an open container as one that is uncapped, open, or has the seal broken. 
The cooking wine you picked up at Meijer is probably fine. But an open can of beer or partially consumed cooler isn’t—and if you’re found with that in your vehicle, you could be charged under
Michigan law

Exceptions to Michigan’s open container law

There are some key exceptions to Michigan’s open container law. Passengers may have an open container of alcohol in the following vehicles: 
  • Chartered vehicles (e.g., buses, limos, etc.) authorized by the state’s transportation office
  • Commercial quadricycles—those cool mobile platforms where a bunch of people pedal, propelling a bar that dispenses beer, wine, spirits, or mixed drinks
Key Takeaway The law doesn’t just apply if you’re drinking from an open container—you can’t have an open or unsealed container of alcohol in the passenger area of your car at all.

Penalties for violating Michigan’s open container law

If you’re found with an open container of alcohol in your car in Michigan, here’s what you could be facing:
Offense
Penalties
First
Misdemeanor, fine up to $100
Second
30-day license suspension + 60 days restrictions
Subsequent
60-day license suspension + 205 days restrictions
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Besides fines and a suspension of your driver’s license, you may also be required to perform community service or attend alcohol counseling.
The repercussions quickly escalate if you were intoxicated at the time of the offense or refuse a breathalyzer test
  • Refusing a sobriety test can earn you a $150 fine—and if you’re under 21, you’ll also get points on your license
  • Operating a vehicle while intoxicated plus an open container citation can get you a fine of $5,000 and up to 5 years in jail if you’re a repeat offender
Even if you don’t have an OWI, an open container violation is a misdemeanor that could raise your insurance rates considerably. Knowing the law can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Key Takeaway If you have an open container of alcohol in your car’s passenger area while on a public highway, or any area open to the public, you could be fined up to $100, or face mandatory community service/alcohol counseling.
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You, your passengers, or both can be charged with open container violations on Michigan roads.
If you refuse to take a breathalyzer test in Michigan, you may be fined up to $150. You will still be required to take a chemical test to determine your bodily alcohol content.
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