What if the Police Catch You With an Open Container in the Car in PA?

From a legal perspective, vehicles and alcohol just don’t mix. Everyone is well aware of the fact that Pennsylvania criminalizes driving while drunk. Most people also know about the rules related to the consumption of alcohol in motor vehicles.

Unless you are in a limousine or on part of a charter tour where there is no possibility of your driving, it is illegal to even have open containers of alcohol in your vehicle. This law applies to passengers and drivers. Driving around with open containers could easily lead to someone becoming drunk while driving, increasing their risk of a crash.

If police officers pull you over while someone in the vehicle has a beer open or a mixed drink in their to-go cup, there could be criminal consequences.

How does Pennsylvania charge people for having an open container of alcohol?

If a police officer catches someone with an open container of alcohol in their vehicle, they will likely seize the container as evidence or even arrest that person on the spot, although an arrest isn’t necessary in many cases. Having an open container in your vehicle is a summary offense that could carry up to $300 in fines and possibly as long as 90 days in jail.

While those penalties on their own aren’t incredibly severe, it’s also worth noting that the presence of an open container of alcohol will likely lead to a field sobriety test and chemical breath testing.

Open containers of alcohol are often probable cause

Police officers cannot force random individuals to perform chemical breath tests, but they can demand a test when they have probable cause to suspect impairment. Just having a beer can or open bottle of wine in your car could be enough to convince an officer that you don’t mind breaking alcohol laws. They could use that as justification to test you and then arrest you if you fail the test or refuse to take it.

Anyone facing a summary offense relating to an open intoxicant might also soon find themselves facing a DUI charge. It is possible to defend against both charges, depending on the circumstances and the evidence gathered by the arresting officer.

Learn More About DUI Arrests:

MPL General Counsel Corner – PPP, EIDL, ERC…..Gooood Morning Vietnam!

Like any “good” government program, acronyms, not names, are the standard identifiers.  There can be a lot of confusion as to what they are and how they apply.  It reminds me of a classic scene in Good Morning Vietnam where Adrian Cronauer (played by Robin Williams) says the following:

“Excuse me, sir. Seeing as how the V.P. is such a V.I.P., shouldn’t we keep the P.C. on the Q.T.? ‘Cause if it leaks to the V.C. he could end up M.I.A., and then we’d all be put out in K.P.”

Keeping this in mind, I thought an update on three key Coronavirus relief programs would be helpful.

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) – An almost $1 Trillion program originally established under the Coronavirus Air, Relief and Economic Securities Act (CARES Act) and recently updated under the PPP Extension Act of 2021.  The program ends May 31, 2021 if you are thinking of applying.  Key things to consider:

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) – This loan package was also made available for Coronavirus relief under the various bills passed last year.  The EIDL program was scheduled to expire at the end of 2020.  However, under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), the EIDL was extended through the end of 2021.  Also, under the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARP), an additional $15 billion in targeted EIDL funding was approved.

Employee Retention Credit (ERC) – This refundable tax relief program was originally authorized under the CARES Act and covered employers who did not qualify or apply for the PPP.  However, with the passage of the CAA and the ARP, the ERC was extended into 2021 and PPP recipients were eligible to use it.

If your head is spinning or you have further questions about the above or other relief programs (see the links below), please reach out to your professional service providers or trade organizations.


As for me, I am taking some PTO and will be MIA while I watch GMV.

Enjoy your weekend!

Please see all of our prior updates at this link or if you would like to be added to our email list, please click here.  

As always, please don’t hesitate to email me (jsanders@mpl-law.com), Andy Miller (amiller@mpl-law.com), Christian Miller (cmiller@mpl-law.com), Erik Spurlin (espurlin@mpl-law.com) or anyone in our office with questions or comments.