“But I was not driving! I was only a passenger in a car when I was drinking, and I was charged with a crime. How can I be charged with a crime if I was not drinking and driving?”
Does this sound familiar? You may assume that charges related to alcohol are only applicable to the driver of the vehicle, but that is an incorrect and potentially harmful assumption.
Pennsylvania’s open container laws apply to both the driver and the passenger in a vehicle. Furthermore, under Pennsylvania law (75 Pa.C.S.A. §3809) it does not matter if you are actually drunk or even consuming alcohol — you can be charged with violating Pennsylvania’s open container law if you are a passenger who is not legally intoxicated.
But I Am Over 21 Years Old!
Being of legal age to drink is not a defense to a charge of violating Pennsylvania open container laws. If you are drinking alcohol as a passenger in a vehicle, you can be charged with violating the open container law regardless of your age. However, you may have other legal defenses that can get you out of an open container ticket.
For example, if the officer lacked probable cause when he issued the ticket, all evidence related to the traffic stop can be thrown out. Remember, you are innocent UNTIL the state proves its case. An arrest is not an admission of guilt. You have the right to defend yourself against the criminal charges thereby forcing the prosecutor to present evidence to the judge to convince the judge you are guilty. If the officer lacked probable cause, the evidence is inadmissible, and the state cannot prove its case.
Another potential defense to an open container charge is a lack of control or dominion. If you were a passenger in the vehicle, but you have not been drinking, and you were not in control of that area of the vehicle, you could have a defense. However, arguing that you are innocent under this reasoning can be very complicated. You need an experienced Edinboro DUI defense attorney to review your case to determine if this defense or other legal defenses exist that can get you out of an open container charge.
Please exercise caution — claiming you are innocent just because you were not holding the container is not always a valid defense. The best defense is to never be in a vehicle with an open container of alcohol.
What is the Punishment for Violating Pennsylvania’s Open Container Law?
A conviction of violating Pennsylvania’s open container law is a summary offense that can carry a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail. You could also lose your driver’s license and face increased insurance rates if you are driving with an open container. Furthermore, if you have a prior criminal history, the penalties for a conviction could be enhanced.
Call an Edinboro Criminal Defense Attorney for Help
A thorough examination of your case is required to determine if you have a defense to the criminal charges. Our Edinboro DUI defense lawyers offer free consultations to discuss the surrounding facts and circumstances related to your criminal charge.
It is always in your best interest to consult with an experienced Pennsylvania DUI attorney before accepting a plea bargain with the state. The state is interested in a conviction, not what is in your best interest. The prosecutor is NOT going to tell you if you have a valid legal defense to the criminal charges.
Contact The Travis Law Firm toll-free at (800) 401-2066 to schedule a free legal consultation with an Edinboro DUI attorney. Our criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience handling all Pennsylvania alcohol-related charges.