Generally, Pennsylvania prohibits the consumption of alcohol and drugs, as well as the 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.
Pennsylvania's open container law makes it unlawful for a driver or passenger in a motor vehicle located on a highway to:
In other words, the law goes beyond possession of an open container and also prohibits using drugs or drinking alcohol in a vehicle.
Unlike the laws of some other states, Pennsylvania's open container law doesn't explicitly define "open container."
However, it's probably fair to say that a Pennsylvania court would use a common-sense approach in interpreting this phrase. So, it's likely that an alcohol container with a broken seal or with some of the contents removed would qualify as an open container.
Pennsylvania's open container law applies to drivers and vehicle passengers. However, there are a number of exceptions (discussed below) that apply to vehicle passengers.
Pennsylvania's open container law has a number of exceptions for certain types of vehicles.
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.
The open container law doesn't prohibit the consumption of alcohol or possession of open containers of alcohol in the living quarters of a house coach or house trailer.
Pennsylvania's open container law applies to the passenger areas of a vehicle. In other words, areas of the vehicle to which the driver or passengers have access. So transporting an open container in the trunk of a vehicle is generally allowed.
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.
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.