With Pennsylvania's many colleges and universities, it's not surprising that underage drinking is one of the most commonly charged offenses in the state. It doesn't matter if you're a student or not, the ramifications of these charges can affect you for the rest of your life.
For the purposes of this article, we will address the (1) laws involving underage drinking, and (2) the penalties associated with this crime.
Underage Drinking Laws in Pennsylvania
The official term for underage drinking and other related actions in Pennsylvania is called “minor in possession.” Through the enforcement of this law, it is illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to do the following:
- Buy, or attempt to buy alcohol
- To knowingly and intentionally transport alcohol
- To possess alcohol
- To consume alcohol
The state has criminalized all attempted methods underage residents use to obtain alcohol. It dictates that people under the age of 21 who use false identification, portray a dishonest guise, or misrepresent themselves in the pursuit of alcoholic beverages will face criminal charges. The state's juvenile code also has legislation prohibiting underage employees from working in spaces and environments where alcohol is sold.
Statutory law also clarifies what would technically constitute as an “alcoholic beverage.” Any liquor, malt, or brewed beverage that contains at least .50% or more alcohol by volume will be legally deemed an alcoholic beverage. This leaves little room for leniency, as even drinks with incredibly small amounts of alcohol - including beer and wine - could lead to a criminal charges for underage residents.
Underage drinking is classified as a summary offense in Pennsylvania, which means that a defendant does not usually have to attend a jury trial in order to prosecuted. His or her guilt or innocence will likely be decided by a judge. If a judge concludes that a violation has occurred, the repercussions for a minor in possession charge can be serious.
- Maximum jail sentence at the Bucks County Correctional Facility for up to 90 days
- A fine of up to $500
- License suspension for 90 days
- Maximum jail sentence of 90 days
- A fine of up to $1,000
- License suspension for one year
- A maximum jail sentence of 90 days
- A fine up to $1,000
- License suspension for two years
It's important to note that although possible jail time or incarceration is listed as one of the penalties for most underage drinking offenses, it is rarely imposed upon defendants. Whether or not a judge will see fit to impose this punishment depends solely on the circumstances of your case. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help reduce this sentence or get your case dismissed altogether.
Bucks County Criminal Defense Attorney
If your child has been charged with any offense related to underage drinking, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced legal professional will be able to guide you through the whole legal process. Crucial advice like how to interact with the police, and the options your child has based on the circumstances of his or hers case. Skilled Bucks County attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience successfully advocating for underage clients who have acquired these charges, and he can do the same for you. Contact him today.