You may be aware of Pennsylvania’s laws on driving under the influence (DUI), where you could face charges if you’re caught driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of at least .08%. If you’re a responsible drinker, you’d remember that it takes two to four drinks to hit that BAC limit.
But there are other ways alcohol can lead to traffic offenses.
Let’s say you’re coming home from a night out with friends at a bar. You’re sober and acting as the designated driver of a friend who’s too drunk to drive themselves. That friend also has a can of beer with them so that they can continue drinking as you drive.
You might think this is okay since you’re not the one drinking. But if an officer pulls you over and finds your friend still drinking, the two of you could be charged with violating Pennsylvania’s open container law.
Whether driver or passenger, containers aren’t allowed
Per Pennsylvania law, both motor vehicle operators and occupants are prohibited from having an open alcoholic beverage container or consuming an alcoholic beverage while the vehicle is on a state highway.
There are some exceptions to this law, but they only apply in cases where the non-driving occupant has the open container and is in a designated passenger area separate from the driver’s part of the vehicle. Vehicles designed to transport persons for compensation such as buses, limos and taxis fall under this category. Motor homes with a dedicated living quarters section also count.
The penalties for violating the open container law
If you’re convicted of violating the law on open containers, the violation shows up as a summary offense on your criminal record. This might not sound as serious as heavier criminal convictions such as misdemeanors or felonies. Still, a conviction for an open container violation leads to a maximum $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
Pennsylvania’s open container law is very strict and can result in criminal charges for even sober drivers. Those who face charges shouldn’t underestimate a conviction and should approach their hearing prepared.