PA open container law and recycling

A friend of mine was pulled over for a traffic infraction. The cop saw an empty beer bottle in the car, and added an open container law violation to his list of charges.

In an attempt to be “green” we take our glass to a recycling center. Am I theoretically in violation when I haul 100 empty beer bottles? Vehicle is a Jeep Patriot, with no “trunk”. The bottles are in an empty horse-feed sack, usually.


The usual test is if the containers are within reach of the driver/passenger. Cans in the trunk, no. Cans in the back of a station wagon, likely no. Cans in the backseat, probably. Cans in the passenger seat, yes.

Putting your bottles in a sack is probably good enough. Tie the sack shut for extra insurance if you think it’s worth it. But even if you did have to go to court, showing that you were going to the recycling center is probably going to get you off the hook every time. The police have different goals than the courts – the police usually just want to ticket almost everything they can, and are encouraged to do so for revenue purposes.

Also, your friend should get a lawyer, it’s probably beatable.

My friend’s middle name is scofflaw, he deserves whatever he gets.:smiley:

But thanks for the info! It’s a shame, but nowadays you gotta cover yer ass.

The law in my state says the law does not apply to “behind the rearmost occupiable seat”, so presumably the back area of a wagon. I gather this is generally the case in most states. Of course my state also exempts open containers that are “within the immediate possession of a passenger” which, by my reading, means that you could have your front passenger pour it in your mouth while you’re driving.

I have been pulled over with several sacks of mostly beer cans in my front seat, (during the strangest traffic stop ever, where I was pulled over because my dump-and-recycling truck has year-of-manufacture plates on it and apparently the cop thought I hadn’t renewed the tags since 1976), but I assured him I hadn’t drank them all just then and he didn’t do anything.

I also think it depends on the obvious circumstances. There’s a difference between one beer bottle of recent vintage in the cabin and a sackful of bottles in the back, and the cop knows that.