In Philadelphia, law enforcement has cracked down on underage drinking, all in hopes of preventing individuals under 21 from having access to or being within proximity to alcoholic beverages. But with this demographic's substantial exposure to these substances - like on college campuses or at parties, for example - many underage residents find themselves in a sticky situations with the law, where the ramifications can adversely affect their lives forever.
Misinformation is the root cause of many of the issues surrounding underage drinking. Many underage clients are under the impression that you have to be consuming a beverage to constitute an arrest. But this isn't the case. Merely being caught possessing an alcoholic beverage upon the arrival of law enforcement could lead to underage drinking charges.
For the purposes of this article, we will address the (1) laws in the state of Pennsylvania regarding this criminal charge, and (2) the penalties commonly imposed upon the conviction of this offense in the state.
Underage Drinking Laws in Pennsylvania
The formal term for underage drinking in Pennsylvania is called “minor in possession.” In accordance with this law, it is illegal for individuals under the age of 21 to commit the following actions:
- Buy, or attempt to buy alcohol
- To possess alcohol
- To consume alcohol
- To knowingly and intentionally transport alcohol
State law also dictates that using false identification, or any other guise or misrepresentation to possess alcohol is also illegal. In order to deter the rates of underage drinking, the state has also criminalized the act of hiring minors in work spaces and environments where alcohol is sold.
For further clarification, state law explicitly defines what is considered an “alcoholic beverage.” Any liquor, malt or brewed beverage that contain at least .50% or more alcohol by volume will be legally ruled as an alcoholic beverage. This means that drinks that contain incredibly small amounts of alcohol - including beer and wine - could result in a criminal charge for people under the age of 21.
Underage drinking is a summary offense in the state, which means that a defendant does not have to attend a jury trial for his or her's guilt or innocence to be determined. If a judge concludes that a violation has occurred, the repercussions for a minor in possession charge can be pretty serious.
For a first offense, an individual may undergo a license suspension and be required to pay a fine of $500. Subsequent offenses will lead to a lengthier license suspension and a fine of at least $1,000. Depending on the circumstances of a case, a judge may see fit to impose a jail sentence.
The creation of a criminal record also has a set of repercussions of its own. Every arrest, and run-in with law enforcement will be accessible by record on the internet for potential employers, higher education institutions and government aid programs to see. Underage drinking is seen as irresponsible, and could hinder you from landing the job you want, joining the military, or from furthering your education.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney
If your child has been charged with an offense related to underage drinking, you should immediately consult with an attorney. An attorney will be able to provide advice as to how to interact with the police, as well as the legal options your child has based on the circumstances of a case. Skilled legal professional Joseph D. Lento has successfully represented clients who have acquired these charges, by getting the charges reduced or completely dismissed. He can do the same for you. Contact him today for help.