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Pennsylvania Open Container Laws

What are open container laws?
Anytime you are in public (whether you’re walking down the street or driving a vehicle), Pennsylvania’s open container laws apply to you. These laws regulate the possession of an open container of alcohol in public as well as the penalties you may receive for violating them.

Open container laws vary quite differently from state to state because these laws are not directly legislated by the federal government. To put it in vague terms, most states--including Pennsylvania--have enacted open container laws. But there are some areas that differ including “The Strip” in Las Vegas, the Power and Lights District in Kansas City, New Orleans’ French Quarter and the historic district in Savannah, Georgia. These areas do, however, have a restriction on the size and type of the containers. Butte, Montana is the only area in the United States that does not have any open container laws.

While the federal government may not actually pass legislation on these laws, they can affect a state’s decision to enact open container statutes. As part of a concern for public safety, the federal government has created “enticements” for each state as a way to encourage states and local municipalities to establish and maintain open container laws.

For example, in 1998 the federal government created the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century. Under this act, states are required to follow certain rules if they want to receive funding for their roadways. States that do not participate in this include Arkansas, Connecticut, Missouri, Virginia and West Virginia—passengers are permitted to have open containers of alcohol in vehicles in these states. Because these five states have not followed the guidelines of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, part of their roadway funds have been diverted to alcohol awareness programs.

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