Understanding Pennsylvania’s Open Container Law

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
August 26, 2021

Understanding Pennsylvania’s Open Container LawWhether you are planning to attend Oktoberfest this fall or just having a few drinks with friends at your favorite bar, having an understanding of Pennsylvania’s open container law may make all the difference when it comes to avoiding a hefty fine or ticket. You may think that it is fine as long as your designated driver is not the one with an open beverage, but if a police officer pulls you over, they may charge anyone in the car. 

The experienced criminal defense attorneys of Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford have extensive experience and knowledge of Pennsylvania law. To prevent unnecessary penalties or fines, you must understand the state’s law concerning open containers. 

What Are Pennsylvania’s Open Container Laws?

Open container laws in Pennsylvania pertain to the driver of a vehicle and any passengers present. While you are allowed to have alcoholic beverages in your vehicle, they must be sealed. The age of the individuals present does not have any bearing on this law, and neither does the fact of whether or not anyone in the vehicle has actually consumed the alcohol. 

There are some exceptions to this law in the case of vehicles-for-hire. An example of some of these exceptions are:

  • Certain licensed taxis
  • Party buses
  • Limousines

While there may be open containers in these vehicles, the alcoholic beverages must not leave the passenger area. Additionally, individuals living in an RV, house coach, trailer, or camper may also have open containers within the vehicle as long as they are in the living quarters. 

What Is Considered an Open Container in Pennsylvania?

If you are traveling in a vehicle and have alcohol with you, the best option to avoid a ticket is to keep the beverage completely sealed. Some examples of what a police officer may consider to be an open container in Pennsylvania are:

  • Mugs, cups, or tumblers containing alcohol
  • Unsealed wine or liquor bottles
  • Unsealed cans, bottles, or containers of single-serve alcoholic drinks
  • Any non-standard vessel used to contain alcohol

Pennsylvania law provides a lot of leeway for the officers to decide how to proceed when an open container law is violated. It is also up to an officer’s discretion to decide whether they will penalize an individual who has released an alcoholic beverage. 

Pennsylvania Open Container Penalties

In Pennsylvania, an open container violation is considered a summary offense or mild crime and usually results in a fine. However, if you are considered a habitual offender, meaning you have had several traffic-related offenses within a five-year period, you may risk losing your license. 

An open container violation may also constitute a traffic stop or reasonable suspicion that may allow an officer to investigate further crimes. In this case, an officer may pursue charges for:

  • DUI
  • Drunk and disorderly conduct
  • Minor in possession of alcohol
  • Possession of illegal drugs
  • Providing alcohol to a minor under the age of 18
  • Drinking alcohol under the legal age of 21

In addition to a fine or penalty for having an open container in your vehicle, these crimes may add up, leading to penalties as severe as license suspension or jail time. 

Southeastern Pennsylvania Defense Attorneys Are Here to Help

If you were pulled over during a traffic stop for an open container violation that turned into a more serious offense like jail time, you may be feeling hopeless. While it may seem like no one is on your side, the experienced team of lawyers at Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford are equipped with the knowledge to help you. 

Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford have been helping give clients a second chance for over 65 years in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Our seasoned criminal defense attorneys offer each of our clients the dedicated representation they deserve. For a free consultation, contact us here or call (215) 822-7575. 

Legally reviewed by:
Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C.
Pennsylvania Attorney's
August 26, 2021
Established in 1952 by Irwin S. Rubin, Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg & Gifford P.C. boasts over 65 years of experience serving clients throughout Pennsylvania. Renowned for its commitment to ethical representation, the firm has garnered prestigious accolades, including being named the "Best Law Firm" for its outstanding legal defense work by U.S. News & World Report. Their team of seasoned attorneys, recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and Rising Stars, brings unparalleled expertise to a wide range of legal matters, ensuring exceptional representation for individuals, families, businesses, and organizations.