It's not difficult for people under the age of 21 to get their hands on an alcoholic beverage. In fact, many law enforcement agencies have deemed underage drinking inevitable. In their efforts to deter this behavior, authorities have likely discovered what most underage drinkers and teens have known (but won't admit) for years: alcohol is easily accessible. Individuals under the age of 21, specifically teens, have found ways to get alcohol without having to pay for it, and if they do, they give their money to a person who can legally buy the alcohol for them. Whether they obtain it at home, from their friends, or at a party, merely possessing alcohol, even with intentions to not consume it, can expose underage individuals to serious criminal charges.
If you or your child has been charged with an alcohol-related offense in Pennsylvania, your first step should be to retain a skilled criminal defense attorney. A legal professional is equipped to provide a solid defense for you that could either get your charges significantly reduced, or get your case dismissed altogether. Your next step would be to gain a clear understanding of how the state approaches and remedies underage drinking and related crimes. In this article, we will help you with the second step by providing a comprehensive review of the following juvenile alcohol offenses: underage DUI, the implied consent law, and minor in possession.
One of the most common alcohol-related charges acquired by juveniles in Pennsylvania is an underage DUI. Due to the disproportionate rates of DUI related fatalities caused by juvenile motorists, the state enforces a no tolerance approach to underage drinking. Thus, the consumption of alcohol by anyone in this demographic is illegal without any exceptions.
The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers under 21 is .02%. At this level of impairment, motorists begin to feel the moderate effects of alcohol. Chemical test findings taken by juvenile drivers that are at .02% or exceed this limit will result in the citing of an underage DUI.
Pennsylvania's stern approach to underage DUIs is mirrored by the mandatory minimums imposed for a conviction of this crime. For a first offense, motorists can expect to spend up to 90 days in jail and pay a fine of up to $500. For subsequent offenses, underage drivers will face up to six months in a county jail, pay a fine up to $2,500 and undergo a license suspension for one year.
Implied consent law
So, let's say you've had a drink or two at a party and you feel capable of safely driving home. On your way home, you believe you are driving carefully, but you peak the interest of an officer. Before you know it, you have those notorious red and blue lights trailing behind you. After pulling over onto the side of the road, the police officer vocalizes that he suspects that you're driving under the influence of alcohol, and requests that you take a chemical test. In response to this request, you apprehensively refuse to take a test. Your line of reasoning is if you don't take the test, or stall the test, you can't get arrested and ultimately charged with a DUI.
Many people in this scenario have found out the hard way that refusing to take a urine, breath, or chemical test at the request of an officer is illegal under the state's “implied consent” law. The notion is that by driving on state roadways, it is implied that you have agreed to chemical testing for the purpose of determining your BAC.
Refusing DUI chemical testing can result in penalties that are more severe than the repercussions for a general DUI conviction. A first refusal will lead to a license suspension of one year and a $500 reinstatement fee. For a second or subsequent violation of this law, the license suspension will last for 18 months, and you'll have to pay a steeper reinstatement fee.
Minor in possession
It is illegal for a minor to attempt or to commission the crime of buying, possessing, or knowingly and intentionally transporting alcoholic beverages. For the prosecution of this crime, proof of consumption or isn't considered by the courts. Merely having an alcoholic beverage in your actual or constructive possession is enough to constitute the committance of this offense.
Despite its broad and absolute statutory authority, the state provides a number of exceptions to this law to be applied in minor in possession cases. In limited employment circumstances, in cases where there is a medical emergency, or when there's adult supervision, minors may be exempt from prosecution.
“Minor in possession” is charged as a summary offense, which carries penalties of a license suspension and a $500 fine. Subsequent offenses lead to a lengthier license suspension and a fine of up to $1,000.
Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
The creation of a criminal record will haunt your child for the rest of his or her life. Being admitted into the college of their dreams, initiating a career they love, and other aspects of their life that they should be looking forward to will be tainted by the existence of a looming and restrictive criminal record. Joseph D. Lento has over 15 years of experience representing juvenile clients who've acquired alcohol-related charges, and he's passionate about keeping young people out of the bind of the merciless criminal justice system.