Open Container Laws in Pennsylvania

Under Pennsylvania’s open container law, you can be fined $300 for having any opened container of alcohol in the passenger area of your car.
Written by Mariza Morin
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
According to
's open container
, you could receive up to a $300 fine, 90 days in jail, or a
offense for having an open container of alcoholic beverage in your car. 
Open container laws in the United States differ from state to state, so understanding your state’s specific law is crucial. 

What is the open container law in Pennsylvania?

Title 75, Section 3809
of the Pennsylvania General Assembly deals with “Restrictions on Alcoholic Beverages.” Under this law, drivers and passengers can receive a citation if: 
  • You possess an open alcoholic beverage container, or
  • You consume a controlled substance or an alcoholic beverage
Essentially, it is illegal in Pennsylvania to have any kind of alcoholic container in your car unless it’s properlysealed or kept in the trunk of your vehicle. The law applies to both drivers and passengers—whoever the open container belongs to. 

What counts as an open container?

Generally, an open container is defined as an alcoholic beverage that has been previously opened, has a broken seal, or has had some of its contents removed. It is illegal for you to drive your vehicle with an open container present in your vehicle—even if you’re sober.
However, you can legally transport alcoholic beverages as long as they are properly sealed. So those bottles of wine you bought from the grocery store are perfectly legal to carry as long as they are properly sealed in the passenger area of your vehicle, the backseat, or the trunk.

Exceptions to Pennsylvania’s open container law

There are always exceptions to the rules, including Pennsylvania’s open container law. Passengers are permitted to have an open container of alcohol in the following types of vehicles: 
  • Buses
  • Limos
  • Taxis
  • House coaches (in the living spaces—not the driver’s area)
  • Trailers (in the living spaces—not the driver’s area)
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Penalties for violating Pennsylvania’s open container law

If you violate Pennsylvania’s open container law, you are committing a summary offense. A summary offense is punishable by a maximum fine of $300 and/or up to 90 days in jail
However, penalties rapidly add up if you were intoxicated during the offense or if you refuse a breathalyzer test. If you refuse a sobriety test, you might end up with a license suspension. 
If you are caught with a 0.08-0.099% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level with no prior DUI offenses, your summary offense is upgraded to a misdemeanor and up to six months of probation. Fines, probation, and possible jail time only increase with every DUI offense. 
Regardless of whether or not you get a DUI, an open container violation creates a criminal record that might raise your insurance rates considerably. Avoid an unexpected spike in your rates by understanding and abiding by Pennsylvania’s open container laws. 
Key Takeaway You can receive up to a $300 fine or  90 days in jail if you have an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of your car while driving on a public highway.

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Either you or your passengers—or both—can receive citations for open container violations on Pennsylvania roads.
Your license can be suspended if you refuse to take a breathalyzer test in Pennsylvania.
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