We all make mistakes when we're younger. Many kids in Pennsylvania have faced underage alcohol charges through the years. But the state takes underage drinking seriously. It can be dangerous, and it can lead to a criminal record. If you are convicted for misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol, it can limit some of your future educational and career prospects, including getting into college and scholarship offers. Fortunately, there are options to clean up your record in Pennsylvania. You may qualify to seal your records under the state's Clean Slate or Act 5 legislation.
Charges for Misrepresenting Your Age to Buy Alcohol in Pennsylvania
You can face charges for misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol if you are under 21 and you try to buy alcohol from anyone. This might include walking into a bar and ordering an alcoholic drink, trying to buy beer at the grocery store, or trying to buy something at one of Pennsylvania's state-run ABC stores.
The statute states:
A person is guilty of a summary offense for a first violation and a misdemeanor of the third degree for any subsequent violations if he, being under the age of 21 years, knowingly and falsely represents himself to be 21 years of age or older to any licensed dealer, distributor or other person, for the purpose of procuring or having furnished to him, any liquor or malt or brewed beverages.
18 Pa. Stat. § 6307 (2018).
Penalties for Misrepresenting Your Age to Buy Alcohol in Pennsylvania
While misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol is a summary offense, the penalties for this charge for subsequent offenses are slightly higher. If you are 18 or older and under 21 at the time of the offense, you can face up to a $300 fine and up to 90 days in jail. You can face up to 90 days in jail for a second or subsequent offense and a $500 fine.
In some cases, the court may offer you a “preadjudication disposition,” admitting you to an adjudication alternative program if you haven't previously been through the program. However, this program will be considered a first offense for subsequent violations.
Juveniles Charged with Misrepresenting Age to Buy Alcohol
If you're under 18 and charged with misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol, the process will be a bit different. The juvenile court will hear your case, and if the judge finds you responsible for the crime, we call it “adjudicated delinquent.” The court uses this terminology solely for juveniles. While an adjudication of delinquency is not a criminal conviction, the state treats it as one in many situations. If adjudicated delinquent, you can also face up to a $500 fine and have your driver's license suspended for a minimum of 90 days.
Sealing Your Record for Misrepresenting Your Age to Buy Alcohol with Clean Slate
Until 2019, many Pennsylvanians who qualified to seal their records didn't do so because they didn't know they had the option or the process was too cumbersome. As a result, Pennsylvania passed a new “Clean Slate” law that allows the state to automatically seal the records of qualifying people after five to ten years. You may qualify for automatic sealing of your record for misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol under Clean Slate if:
- Your conviction is for a summary offense or a low-level, second or third-degree misdemeanor,
- You have a conviction for an ungraded misdemeanor punishable by no more than two years in prison, or
- You don't have a conviction because the prosecutor or court dismissed the case or found you not guilty.
For a summary conviction, the state will typically wait five years to automatically seal your record under Clean Slate. However, if you have a misdemeanor conviction, you will have to wait ten years for automatic sealing. For juveniles, the process and waiting periods vary.
If you have a summary offense for misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol, you may also qualify to expunge your criminal record. Expungement is a more thorough way of removing your records from the public eye by destroying them in response to a court order. You may qualify for expungement if:
- It's been at least five years since you completed your sentence, including paying all court-ordered fines,
- You don't have any additional arrests or prosecutions for the five years after your original conviction.
If you were under 18 and adjudicated delinquent for misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol, you may also be able to expunge your records under certain situations. You should consult an experienced expungement and sealing attorney to discuss your options.
Sealing Your Record for Misrepresenting Your Age to Buy Alcohol with an Act 5 Petition
Even if you don't qualify for automatic sealing under Pennsylvania law, you may still be able to petition the court to limit public access to your records using Pennsylvania's Act 5. Act 5 requires you to apply for sealing; it is not automatic. But it does apply to a wider range of convictions, including some first-degree misdemeanors that aren't eligible for automatic sealing. You may qualify to file an Act 5 petition if:
- It has been ten years or more since you completed your sentence,
- You have a conviction for a misdemeanor punishable by no more than five years in prison, and
- You aren't arrested or convicted of additional crimes punishable by a year or more in prison.
Sealing a Juvenile Record for Misrepresenting Your Age to Buy Alcohol
If you were a juvenile adjudicated delinquent for misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol, you might be able to expunge or seal your records under shorter periods than those under Clean Slate or Act 5. Juvenile waiting periods typically range from six months to five years after completing your sentence or supervision, depending on the offense and whether the court adjudicated you delinquent. You should consult with a Pennsylvania expungement and sealing attorney to discuss your options.
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Sealing and Expungement Attorney
If you have a record for misrepresenting your age to buy alcohol in Pennsylvania, it can have unforeseen consequences. Even a juvenile adjudicated delinquent can face repercussions in some careers when joining the military and at some educational institutions. If you're ready to explore cleaning up your Pennsylvania criminal record, it's time to consult an experienced sealing and expungement attorney.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has been helping Pennsylvanians clean up their records through sealing and expungement for years. He and the skilled team at the Lento Law Firm can help you too. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888.535.3686 to schedule your consultation, or contact them online today.