The Complete Guide to Illinois Alcohol Laws


Illinois alcohol laws regulate the consumption of alcoholic beverages, including who can drink them and where they can be consumed. Learn more here from The Law Offices of Andrew Nickel.

Overview of Illinois Alcohol Laws

We have come a long way from the time of prohibition. In Illinois and across the US, alcohol has been legalized for individuals 21 years of age and older in private settings. However, there are still various circumstances in which drinking or possessing alcohol is illegal.

Most people who get charged with alcohol offenses in Illinois fall into one of the following three categories:

  • Underage drinkers
  • Individuals suspected of driving under the influence
  • Extremely inebriated individuals who are causing public disturbances

If you or a loved one is facing charges for a violation of Illinois alcohol laws, securing strong representation is essential. Contact The Law Offices of Andrew Nickel today to schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, or keep reading our guide to learn more about your legal rights and responsibilities.

Public Alcohol Consumption Under Illinois Drinking Laws

Some of the most fundamental Illinois drinking laws to keep in mind are those regulating the consumption of alcohol in public. While there is no statewide ban, public consumption is against the law in most of the state’s districts. Chicago statute 8-4-030, for example, states that it is illegal for anybody to publicly consume liquor in the city’s streets, sidewalks, roads, lanes, etc. 

Violations of such laws are usually prosecuted as misdemeanors. While the penalties for public drinking are not as severe as those for other offenses, the charge is typically combined with related offenses by the prosecution, such as causing disorderly conduct, resisting an officer, attempted assault, driving under the influence, or drug possession.

The police do not usually take public drinking offenses seriously unless they believe the suspect could also be charged with another offense. It typically isn’t worth the effort to detain somebody who is carrying an open can of beer or drinking silently on the bus without causing any disruption. If you do face public drinking charges, however, you could face a permanent criminal record, so reaching out to an attorney is your best course of action.

Illinois Alcohol Ban on Underage Drinking

Other individuals who do get regularly arrested for alcohol offenses are minors who are caught with alcohol. Drinking, or even carrying a sealed bottle of alcohol, could land a minor in trouble with the law. This can lead to a lasting criminal record with devastating effects on their future, but a solid defense could help mitigate these impacts. 

Illinois Drinking Age

The Illinois drinking age is 21. Under this guideline, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase or try to purchase an alcoholic beverage. Those who do may face legal consequences, such as driver’s license suspension and court supervision.

It is also illegal for bars, restaurants, and retailers to sell or serve alcohol to minors, and the sale of such beverages can result in criminal charges for the retailer, server, or restaurant owner. However, a server age 18 and up may serve alcohol to patrons in a licensed bar or restaurant as long as they undergo the required alcohol service training.

Using a fake ID to purchase alcohol is also a criminal offense, and simply possessing another individual’s driver’s license or state ID card can lead to license suspension or revocation. This penalty can take place with no formal conviction.

There is one exception to Illinois’ drinking age. Minors can consume alcohol on private property in the presence of at least one of their parents or legal guardians. However, parents are not allowed to let their child drink at any public business location that facilitates alcohol and liquor sales, such as bars or restaurants, and the exception does not apply to other people’s children, even if you are watching them in your own home. 

Legal Alcohol Limit in Illinois

The second classification of individuals that get frequently charged with alcohol offenses is motor vehicle drivers. In Illinois, and throughout the United States, driving under the influence is strictly prohibited. It is a punishable offense as intoxicated drivers are a danger to their own safety and the safety of others around them.

Legal Alcohol Limit Illinois for Drivers

The legal alcohol limit for Illinois drivers age 21 and older is a BAC of 0.08% or greater. It is also illegal for a person under the age of 21 to drive with any alcohol in their system. This means that if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is detected at anything above 0.00%, they could face a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction.

For all drivers, a DUI conviction can result in serious penalties, including driver’s license suspension, fines, and/or prison time. Subsequent convictions often lead to even higher penalties.

Illinois Alcohol Limit for Boaters

Illinois alcohol laws also forbid operating a water vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Individuals face a boating under the influence (BUI) conviction if one of the following applies:

  • They have a BAC of 0.08 or more.
  • They test positive for illegal drugs.
  • They suffer impairment from alcohol, drugs, or a mix of the two such that they can’t safely run the vessel.

The penalties of a first-offense BUI conviction include up to 364 days in jail and a fine of approximately $2,600. A second offense is punishable by as much as 3 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.

If you have been charged with a DUI or BUI offense, please contact a DUI lawyer in Yorkville as soon as possible. These charges are prosecuted extremely harshly due to the nature of these crimes, and you need an experienced legal advocate fighting for your future. 

Illinois Open Container Law

It is not just the act of drinking that is viewed as an offense, but also the way in which it is carried. Carrying an open container of alcohol in a public area, such as public transportation, is a crime in Illinois. This would hold in court even if you were not in fact consuming the alcoholic contents.

It’s important to note that under 625 ILCS 5/11-502, even the possession of unsealed alcoholic liquor in a vehicle can be premises for an arrest and conviction. If a law enforcement officer stops a vehicle and sees an open can of beer on the dashboard or a half-drunk bottle of wine on the passenger seat, they can arrest the driver even when he or she has not been consuming alcohol, but we may be able to argue for a lighter sentence if there is clear evidence that you were not driving under the influence of alcohol.

Illinois Alcohol Distribution Laws

Illinois alcohol laws also regulate the distribution of alcoholic beverages. These laws do not just apply to companies, but also to individuals. Under Federal law, nobody can bring alcohol into a state unless doing so complies with the laws of that state.

A person may only bring 1 gallon of alcohol into the state of Illinois each year. For any alcohol beyond that quantity, the person should obtain express permission from the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. However, the Commission will not provide a license to import any more than 12 bottles of wine into the state’s borders.

While some alcohol-related charges are more serious than others, all criminal charges should be taken seriously, and you need a dedicated local criminal defense lawyer on your side. To begin building a strong defense in your favor, please contact The Law Offices of Andrew Nickel today to schedule a free consultation.