The legal drinking age in Pennsylvania is 21. Of course, the actual drinking age for many minors and teenagers is lower than that. The day will likely never come when minors stop seeking, acquiring, and consuming alcohol, despite the best efforts of the law, police, and prosecutors. But underage drinking can lead to serious headaches for the kids who get caught and any adults who helped or allowed them to get and drink booze. If driving is involved, the consequences can be even more dire.
Charges related to underage drinking can derail a teen’s life, deprive them of their driving privileges and other rights, and cause them problems for years to come. If you or your child has been charged with an underage drinking offense, it isn’t something to be taken lightly and it isn’t something to be faced on your own.
At McKinney Law, our experienced Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys work with minors and their families to fight such charges and minimize the consequences so that a momentary mistake does not turn into a long-term problem.
Underage Drinking Offenses
Most underage drinking charges involve the purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol or the attempt to do the same. If a minor is convicted for underage possession or consumption not involving a vehicle, they can face a fine of up to $500 for the first violation and up to $1,000 for a second and subsequent conviction. Possession of a fake ID can result in similar penalties.
Jail time is also a possibility, though a skilled defense attorney can usually help the minor avoid incarceration through participation in a diversionary program involving alcohol education and other obligations.
Perhaps more painful for a teen convicted for underage drinking, they will lose their driving privileges for 90 days, with license suspensions going up to a year for a second offense and two years for a subsequent offense. If the minor has yet to obtain a learner’s permit, they will not be able to apply for one and thus obtain a driver’s license until the applicable suspension period has run. If the minor is under 16, the clock won’t start ticking on that blackout period until their 16th birthday.
Additionally, the teen won’t be able to hide the problem from their parents, as Pennsylvania law requires the police department making the arrest to notify a minor’s parents or guardians about the arrest.
The consequences of underage drinking can go far beyond fines and license suspensions, especially when cars are involved. Tragedies involving underage drinking and driving are why Pennsylvania has a “zero tolerance” policy when it comes to minors getting behind the wheel with any amount of alcohol in their system. This means that if an underage driver has a blood alcohol content of just 0.02 percent (compared to 0.08 percent for those over 21), they will be charged with DUI and face the severe consequences which come with this serious offense.
Supplying Alcohol to Minors
Any adults, including parents, who play a role in a minor getting or drinking alcohol can face serious problems as well. Multiple charges including corruption of minors, reckless endangerment and supplying alcohol to minors can lead to huge fines and the possibility of jail time, and such charges can be multiplied if multiple minors are involved. Additionally, adults can be held civilly liable for damages if any minors are hurt or hurt others because of alcohol they provided.
We Take Underage Drinking Charges Seriously. So Should You. Call McKinney Law Today.
Given the potential consequences, an arrest for underage drinking can cause anxiety and worry for minors and their parents alike. It is not an ordeal you should face alone. The aggressive and skilled Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys at McKinney Law are available 24/7 to answer your questions and begin preparing the optimal strategy to achieve the best possible result.
If you or your child are facing underage drinking charges in or around Pittsburgh, please call us at (412) 520-3301 to arrange for your free initial consultation.