Pennsylvania Alcohol Crimes
There are several different alcohol related laws in Pennsylvania. These crimes can range from having to do with driving under the influence to carrying an open container. Different alcohol related incidents will carry different penalties, so it is important for any person to educate themselves on the city and state alcohol related laws.
Open container laws, in terms of being inside of a vehicle, are in place to stop passengers from drinking alcohol while in a vehicle. These laws not only include passengers in a car holding bottles or cans of alcohol, but also open containers being hidden or stored in compartments within a car such as a glove box or center console. While open container laws are in place in Pennsylvania not all states have decided to adopt this law. However, these states which have chosen not to adopt the law are also ineligible for some federal state highway funds. If a state has no open container laws, a person should not assume that each region within the state will not impose penalties for open containers, as certain cities and counties may create their own open container laws within a state that has none in place.
In terms of open container laws, these will generally only enforced on public roads or parking areas, and in some states a person may not be breaking the law if they hold an open container in their vehicle while it is on a private road or driveway. For example, if a person has an open bottle of alcohol in their vehicle while parked on a driveway in Nebraska, they have not broken open container laws.
Open Container Laws Not Involving A Vehicle
Open container laws do not strictly apply to vehicles only, and having an open container on the street is illegal in many states as well. These laws often mean that a person cannot have an open container of alcohol while walking along a public road, sidewalk, or other area, and these open container laws apply to most states and regions within the country. There are two notable exceptions, however, with Las Vegas and New Orleans, where those over the age of 21 may be able to walk down the street with an open container of alcohol, but other restrictions on the alcohol may be enforced.
What counts as an open container may vary, but it generally refers to either a bottle that’s original seal has been broken or an alcoholic beverage poured into a cup. In some states, if a bottle’s seal is broken, some contents must be missing for it to be considered an open container, and these laws will differ from state to state. In Florida, for example, a half full bottle of wine will not be considered an open container if it is resealed by a restaurant, and in Louisiana, a person may carry a frozen daiquiri as long as the lid has not been removed and no straw was inserted into the beverage. It is always best for a person to look at the law for their individual state before carrying an unsealed bottle or other type of alcoholic beverage, as these laws can vary so greatly from area to area.
Open Container Defenses And Liability
In open container cases, the defendant has to have been aware that the container was open at the time in question. One defense that can be used is if the defendant can prove that the container had a faulty seal, and it had opened due to no fault of their own. In some states, a driver or owner of a vehicle can use the defense that a passenger brought the open container into the car without their knowledge, and the passenger will then face open container law charges instead. Proper defenses may vary by state, and consulting an attorney before deciding on a defense is always recommended.
Open container penalties will often vary from simple infractions to misdemeanors. Infractions are normally not considered to be criminal convictions, although they will often come with fines or community service, and they are not searchable on a person’s criminal record. Minors found in violation of open container laws will typically face harsher penalties than adults.
Open Container Exemptions
Some situations are exempt under open container laws, and a person’s individual situation is important when considering what may or may not be legal under a state’s open container law. For instance, open containers in a limousine or party bus are typically allowed, and many states do not count open containers held in a trunk of a car, particularly if the trunk is inaccessible to those riding inside of the vehicle.
Public Intoxication In Pennsylvania
Public intoxication laws will often vary greatly depending on the state, but Pennsylvania does not consider public intoxication to be a crime, but rather a social nuisance. However, public intoxication situations vary from person to person, and other charges may be involved depending on the incident at hand. For instance, if a person is publicly intoxicated and gets into a fight, they may face assault charges, or if a person is publicly intoxicated and decides to drive, they will often risk being charged with a DUI. When a person is found to be publicly intoxicated in Montgomery County, a police officer may escort them home, to a hospital, or place them into custody temporarily until they are back in a sober state in order to avoid problems or harm to themselves.
Because public intoxication is not a crime in Pennsylvania, it does not come with criminal penalties. If a person is placed into custody temporarily after being found publicly intoxicated, it is not considered an arrest, and the person will be released without consequences either when they sober up or after 12 hours, whichever time length is deemed shorter.
Selling Or Providing Alcohol To Minors
It is illegal to sell or provide alcohol to minors in all 50 states, but each state will vary on the harshness of the penalties a person may incur if found guilty of selling or providing alcohol to a person under the age of 21. Some states do allow a parent to give their minor child alcohol, however, given that the child is under guidance and at the home, and other exceptions may also apply for medicinal uses or religious ceremonies where a person under the age of 21 is ingesting alcohol.
Penalties for supplying a minor with alcohol will vary, but they are typically considered to be misdemeanor charges that carry penalties such as fines, jail time, probation, community service, or the revocation of a liquor license.
Contact A Norristown Criminal Defense Attorney
When facing charges related to alcohol consumption, alcohol possession or DUI it is always best to seek the assistance of a skilled Montgomery County criminal defense attorney. Call me, Norristown Lawyer Henry S. Hilles for a free consultation. I routinely defend those accused of DUI and other drug and alcohol related crimes throughout Montgomery County, Pennsylvania including Norristown, Ambler, Plymouth Meeting and King of Prussia.