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Driving with an open container of alcohol can get you into trouble

On Behalf of | Jul 20, 2023 | DUI, Traffic Violations

If a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level is at least .08%, an officer can charge them with driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). While the charge isn’t concerned with how the driver got drunk, a driver can face another charge for having an open container of liquor in their vehicle.

Pennsylvania has an open container law prohibiting drivers and their passengers from possessing an open alcoholic beverage while in a motor vehicle. Violating this rule can result in penalties that can add up if the driver also faces a DUI charge.

State law on open alcohol containers

According to the law, it’s illegal for drivers and passengers to possess an open container with an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle on a state highway. While some states would allow non-driving passengers to have an open container, Pennsylvania is one of several states that bans both drivers and passengers.

The penalties

Anyone who violates Pennsylvania’s open container law commits a summary offense, which is punishable by a fine of up to $300 and a maximum jail period of 90 days. These penalties are in addition to any punishments that await a driver if they’re convicted of DUI. There are also additional penalties for minors who have consumed alcohol, whether drivers or passengers.

Exceptions to the law

While the open container law can be harsh on even passengers, it does have exclusions. Any passengers in the designated passenger area of a vehicle meant to transport people for compensation are exempt from the law. Passengers of buses, limos and taxis can have open liquor containers and avoid trouble with the law. Their bus/limo/taxi drivers, though, are still prohibited. There’s also an exemption for passengers in the living quarters of an RV or house trailer.

Whether you’re a driver facing both DUI and open container violation charges, or a passenger wrongly charged despite being in an admissible area, consider discussing your case with a legal professional. A lawyer can help you construct a defense against your charges and find ways to reduce your penalties.