Can I Get a Charge for Minor in Possession of Alcohol Expunged in Pennsylvania?
Underage drinking has long been a problem in Pennsylvania. As a result, lawmakers in Pennsylvania try to balance discouraging minors from drinking or possessing alcohol and ensuring that the punishment isn't so onerous that a kid making a mistake faces punishment forever.
Luckily, in Pennsylvania, you can expunge underage drinking convictions you received when you were 18 or older once you are 21 and have completed your sentence. If you were under 18, there are also options to expunge your juvenile charges for minor in possession of alcohol.
What Can I Expunge in Pennsylvania?
Normally, you can expunge a Pennsylvania conviction if it was a summary offense, and you have been free from prosecution or arrest for five years. A summary offense is a minor offense akin to a traffic violation or an ordinance violation. A summary offense is less serious than a misdemeanor or a felony, with fewer than 90 days in jail and up to a $1,500 fine. In Pennsylvania, you typically can't expunge a misdemeanor or felony conviction except in very rare circumstances. You may, however, be eligible to have misdemeanor charges sealed.
You may also expunge charges where you don't have a conviction, such as dropped charges, dismissed charges, not guilty verdicts, and nolle prosse dispositions. You can also expunge underage drinking convictions once you reach 21 and complete your sentence.
Minor in Possession of Alcohol in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase, consume, possess, or transport "liquor, malt, or brewed beverages." When charged with one of these crimes, they're often referred to collectively as "minor in possession of alcohol" charges. Because this is a crime targeting underage drinking, it is a summary offense.
The Pennsylvania statute regarding the purchase, consumption, possession, or transportation of liquor or malt or brewed beverages states:
(a) Offense defined.--A person commits a summary offense if he, being less than 21 years of age, attempts to purchase, purchases, consumes, possesses or knowingly and intentionally transports any liquor or malt or brewed beverages, as defined in section 6310.6 (relating to definitions). For the purposes of this section, it shall not be a defense that the liquor or malt or brewed beverage was consumed in a jurisdiction other than the jurisdiction where the citation for underage drinking was issued.
(b) Penalty.--A person convicted of violating subsection (a) may be sentenced to pay a fine of not more than $500 for the first violation and not more than $1,000 for the second and each subsequent violation.
18 Pa. Code § 6308 (2018). The statute also allows a court to place an offender in a diversionary, pre-adjudication disposition program. If this is the first offense for a minor, a magisterial district judge can place an offender in a public service or charitable agency program instead of entering a disposition in the case. If the minor completes the community service or probationary program, the judge can dismiss the charges.
Can I Expunge a Minor in Possession Charge?
You may be able to expunge a minor in possession conviction because it is a summary offense. In Pennsylvania, you can generally expunge charges if:
- Your conviction was a summary offense, and you have been free from arrest or prosecution for five years,
- You weren't convicted because the charges were dismissed or dropped, a court found you not guilty, or a court entered a nolle prosse disposition, or
- You went through an adjudication diversion program or Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) program where you completed community service or probation and weren't convicted.
However, the Pennsylvania legislature expressly dealt with the expungement of minor in possession of alcohol charges. If you were 18 years or older and convicted of section 6308, have completed all the terms of your sentence, and are now 21 years or older, you may have your record expunged. See 18 Pa. C.S.A. § 9122 (2019).
Juvenile Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charges
You may be able to have a minor in possession of alcohol conviction expunged if you were under 18 at the time of your conviction. Pennsylvania law allows expungement of some juvenile offenses, including summary offenses, but it also expressly allows expungement of minor in possession charges.
Typically, to qualify for juvenile record expungement, you must fall into one of five categories:
- It has been six months since you completed an informal adjustment, and you do not have any pending charges against you.
- It's been six months since your final discharge from supervision after a consent decree or diversion program, and you have no criminal convictions or adjudications pending against you.
- You are 18 or older, and:
- It has been at least six months since you completed all conditions of a summary conviction committed while you were under 18
- You haven't been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor or adjudicated delinquent and
- You have no pending delinquency, misdemeanor, or felony charges
- The type of offense
- Your age, employment history, and criminal activity
- Any alcohol or drug problems you may have
- Adverse consequences if the DA doesn't grant expungement and
- Whether the public is at risk if the court expunges your record
However, if you had a conviction for minor in possession of alcohol when you were under 18, you can have the conviction expunged if:
- You are over 18 and
- It's been at least six months since you completed all the terms of your sentences.
Hire a Pennsylvania Attorney Experienced in Expunctions
If you need to have a minor in possession or other conviction expunged from your record, you need an experienced Pennsylvania expunction attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced criminal defense attorney proficient in helping clients expunge criminal records. He can help. Give the Lento Law Firm a call at 888-535-3686.