Pennsylvania’s Open Container Law

The open container law in Pennsylvania and the penalties for possessing open containers of alcohol and consuming alcohol or drugs in a motor vehicle.

Generally, Pennsylvania prohibits consumption of alcohol and drugs, as well as possession of open containers of alcohol in motor vehicles. However, there are exceptions allowing passengers to drink alcohol and have open containers of alcohol in certain types of vehicles. This article provides an overview of Pennsylvania’s open container law, exceptions, and the penalties for violating the law.

Open Container Law

Pennsylvania’s open container law makes it unlawful for a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle located on a highway to:

  • be in possession of an open alcoholic beverage container, or
  • consume a controlled substance or an alcoholic beverage.

Exceptions

Buses, taxis, and limousines. A passenger can lawfully consume an alcoholic beverage or possess an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of a motor vehicle used mainly for transporting persons for compensation. Such vehicles include buses, taxis, and limousines.

House coaches and trailers. The open container law doesn’t prohibit consumption of alcohol or possession of open containers of alcohol in the living quarters of a house coach or house trailer.

Penalties

A person who violates Pennsylvania’s open container law commits a summary offense. A summary offense is punishable by a maximum fine of $300 and/or up to 90 days in jail.

Underage Offenders

A person under 21 years of age is subject to the same penalties for open container violations as adult offenders. However, a minor who drives or is in “actual physical control” of a vehicle after consuming alcohol can be charged with a driving under the influence of alcohol offense. If the minor’s alcohol concentration is .02% or more within two hours after driving, the minor is considered impaired.

A minor convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol for a first offense will be sentenced to at least 48 hours in jail and a fine of $500 to $5,000. The minor will also be required to attend a highway safety school and drug/alcohol treatment.

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