What is the Difference Between a DUI & an Open Container Violation?

man driving car

Two of the most common alcohol-related offenses we see individuals commit are driving while intoxicated (DUI) and open container violations. Though they are not entirely dissimilar in their nature, there are some important differences between them to understand. Please continue reading and reach out to a dedicated Allegheny County DUI lawyer from our firm to learn about these charges and the penalties they may entail. Here are some of the questions you may have:

What is an open container violation?

An open container violation is essentially when either a driver or a passenger has an open alcoholic beverage in the vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle was stopped or in motion at the time of the arrest. An “open container” in PA is defined as a container with a broken seal, had some contents removed, or has been previously opened. Notably, you can reseal the open container and store it in the trunk of your vehicle to avoid being charged with an option container violation.

That said, this doesn’t mean you can’t be charged with a DUI. If law enforcement suspects you are under the influence, they will likely require you to take a field sobriety or a breathalyzer test. If you’re deemed intoxicated, you will face DUI charges.

What are the penalties for an open container violation?

Typically, if someone is found guilty of an open container violation, they will likely face up to 90 days of incarceration and a potential $500 fine. In some cases, you may lose your driver’s license temporarily.

What are the penalties for a DUI in Pennsylvania?

Importantly, the penalties for even a first-offense DUI in Pennsylvania are harsher than an open container violation. Just some of the penalties you may face for a first-offense general impairment DUI with a BAC between .10%-.16% can include up to six months of incarceration (and a mandatory minimum of two days of incarceration), a 12-month driver’s license suspension, a $5,000 fine, and more.

Overall, the two most important factors that influence the severity of a DUI charge are a person’s blood alcohol content and whether they have a record of previous DUIs. The more DUIs on a person’s record/the higher their BAC, the harsher the penalties will be.

Whether you’re charged with an open container violation or a DUI, you’d be best served with a competent legal advocate in your corner. Our firm is here to help. Contact the Law Office of George Heym today so we can get started working on your case.

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