When you receive that late night phone call from a police officer who informs you that they have your minor child–either at the police station or the location of a drinking party– a thousand and one questions and concerns swirl through your mind.
Today, underage drinking has become an out of control rite of passage. However, a conviction (if older than 18 years old) or an adjudication (if under 18 years old) can have serious consequences on the child’s life. Such a conviction or adjudication will effect the parent’s or child’s wallet– with a monetary fine and loss of driving privileges. The child’s future potential employers as well as future educational opportunities may be impacted by such a conviction or adjudication. Such a conviction or adjudication will also effect the child’s family due to potential penalties that include monetary fines, loss of driver’s license, and required court appearances.
As a Delaware County underage drinking lawyer located in Boothwyn, with over 25 years experience, I am available to answer your questions regarding Pennsylvania’s laws and penalties if your children are charged with any of the Pa. underage drinking laws.
What Are PA Underage Drinking Laws
The PA Code defines underage drinking as when anyone 21 years old or younger, “attempts to purchase, purchases, consumes, possesses or knowingly and intentionally transports any liquor or malt or brewed beverage”. 18 Pa CS 6308(a). Yes, beer is a malt or brewed beverage.
The parents or guardians of the child will be notified of such an arrest. The law states that the “police department making an arrest for a suspected violation of subsection (a) shall so notify the parents or guardians of the minor charged” 18 Pa.CS 6308(d).
Other drinking charges a child may face include Carrying a False Identification Card. This is defined as when someone under 21 years old “possesses an identification card falsely identifying that person by name, age, date of birth, or photograph as being 21” or “obtains or attempts to obtain liquor or malt or brewed beverages by using the identity card of another or by using an identity card that has not been lawfully issued to or in the name of that person who possesses the card”. 18 Pa. CS 6310.3.
It goes without saying that PA laws on underage DUI exist and are harsh. There is a Zero Tolerance attitude toward underage drinking and driving. This attitude is shown in a reduction of the BAC level from .08% down to .02% for the juvenile. 75 Pa. CS 3802(e).
What Are PA Penalties for Underage Drinking
The type of penalties in PA for drinking violations range from a summary offense to a misdemeanor. Purchasing, consuming, possessing, or transporting alcohol by someone who is underage is a summary offense with a fine of up to $500 for a first offense and a fine of up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Further, the individual will have their driver’s license suspended 90 days for a first offense, one year for a second offense, and two years for the third or more offense. The license will be suspended whether the individual is convicted (if over 18 years old), adjudicated delinquent (if under 18 years old), or placed into ARD (Alternate Pre-Adjudication Disposition).
The penalties in PA for carrying a false ID card also include the 90 day to two year loss of driver’s license. In addition, the first offense of a false ID card is classified as a summary offense. A second or subsequent violation is classified as a misdemeanor third degree with an additional penalty of a fine of not more than $500.
A juvenile who commits drinking offenses while driving, or DUI, may be admitted into an ARD program with 90 day loss of license, alcohol highway safety school, community service and other possible conditions the court may impose. Otherwise, juvenile DUI penalties are harsh. A first conviction or adjudication can result in 48 hours to 6 months in jail, a $500 to $5000 fine, a license suspension for 12 months. The second conviction or adjudication can result in 30 days to 6 months in prison, a $750 to $5000 fine, a license suspension for 12 months, and an ignition interlock for 12 months. A third or more conviction or adjudication can result in 90 days to 5 years in prison, a $1,500 to $10,000 fine, a license suspension for 18 months, and an ignition interlock for 12 months.
If your child has been convicted or adjudicated of a drinking violation, you should consult a Delaware County criminal defense lawyer to review having those alcohol related convictions or adjudications expunged from their criminal record.
An Exception to PA Underage Drinking
There is an exception to the charge of possessing or drinking alcohol by a juvenile. Pennsylvania law states that a person “shall be immune” from prosecution for consumption or possession of alcohol if that person can establish four facts. These facts are: 1) the police only became aware of the violation because of that person’s call for another in need of immediate medical attention; 2) that person believed that he or she was the first to report the need to the proper authorities; 3) that person provided his or her own name when reporting the need to the proper authorities; and 4) that person remained with the person in need until the authorities arrived. 18Pa CS 6308(f)
Other Practice Areas
- Delaware County Workers Compensation Attorney
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