Pennsylvania’s Open Container Law

closeup inside vehicle of hand holding onto green beer bottle and stick shift

You’re planning on going out with friends for a few “adult beverages.” You get picked to be the driver, which means your drinks will be soft. On the way to the bar, one of your passengers cracks open a cold one moments before you are pulled over by the police. Your  get charged with open container. But how?

Open Container Laws in Pennsylvania

The open container laws as they stand throughout the state pertain to both drivers and passengers. No person in your vehicle, despite being legally of age to drink alcohol, can have an open container in a motor vehicle. It also does not matter if the person with the open container has consumed the alcohol. Any alcoholic beverages in a motor vehicle must be sealed.

21 Is No Defense

Again, it does not matter if a person is 21 or older if they are found to have an open container in a motor vehicle. If you hope to defend yourself against the charges, you must be able to prove that you did not have the open container. If you cannot prove this, you will be found guilty of the summary offense of open container in a motor vehicle. The penalties for those convicted of the crime include license suspension and fines. The penalties for open container can be enhanced depending on the person’s criminal background.

Probable Cause Is Necessary

For a police officer to charge a person with open container in a motor vehicle, they must have probable cause. This means that an officer cannot charge a person with open container if they search a vehicle illegally. They are not also permitted to establish probable cause while conducting their business improperly. When the officer charges a person with open container after acting in a manner that is not proper, the charges will not stand.

Possible Defenses

You cannot be charged with open container in a permissible vehicle. These include limos and party buses. In addition, you may not have been aware that a passenger in your car had an open container. For example, if the person was seated behind you and you didn’t see the container, you may be off the hook. The last defense can be a difficult one without the assistance of an attorney.

Remember that it is up to the prosecutor to prove their case, it is not up to you to prove your innocence. The officer must have acted properly and gathered evidence via legal means. An experienced attorney can review the details of your arrest and help you determine the best defense for your  unique situation.

If you have been arrested for open container in Philadelphia, reach out to our office. We will discuss your case at a free initial case evaluation. Call today to schedule your consultation and let us help you mount a strong defense against your charges.