The legal drinking age in Pennsylvania is 21 years old. When you are 18 years old, you may become an adult, but you still have to wait three more years before it is legal for you to buy, possess, and consume alcohol. Despite it being illegal for young adults and teenagers to imbibe alcohol, many do. There is particularly a great deal of pressure to drink before it is illegal, making underage drunk driving an issue throughout the state. College students, other young adults, and teenagers face criminal underage DUI charges if they are caught driving under the influence.
If you are 20 years or younger and were arrested for a DUI in Greensburg, PA, do not hesitate to contact an underage DUI lawyer from Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys. Additionally, if your child was arrested for driving under the influence anywhere in Westmoreland County, you can reach out to our juvenile crime lawyers in Greensburg through our online form or by calling (724) 834-1275.
Our DUI lawyers offer free consultations, and we will talk with you about what happens if you get a DUI under 21.
Underage Drinking and DUI Law
To begin with, it is completely illegal for you to imbibe alcohol when you are under 21. Under 18 Pa. Code §6308, it is illegal for you to purchase, try to purchase, consume, possess, or knowingly and intentionally transport any alcohol if you are under 21 years old. The first time you are caught with alcohol while underage, you can face a summary offense, which will result in a fine up to $500. A second alcohol offense will be a summary offense punishable by a fine up to $1,000.
However, the stakes get much higher if you get behind the wheel. Pennsylvania has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drunk or drugged driving.
If you are pulled over and the police have any reason to suspect you have had a drink or consumed a drug, such as marijuana, you will face an underage DUI arrest. The police need very little to arrest you on suspicion of drunk driving. It could be that they smell alcohol or marijuana in the car. They may notice that your eyes are bloodshot or glassy-looking. You may be slow to respond, slur your words, or not provide appropriate answers to their questions.
Whenever you face an alcohol-related offense as a young adult, particularly an underage DUI, you need to contact an underage DUI attorney to help you navigate the legal system and work to obtain the best possible results in your case.
Alcohol-Related Underage DUI
An underage drinking DUI is charged under 18 Pa. Code §3802(e), which states it is illegal for a minor to drive, operate, or be in actual physical control of the movement of a vehicle after imbibing a sufficient amount of alcohol such that their breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.02 percent or higher within two hours of driving, operating, or being in control of the vehicle. A BAC of 0.02 percent is very low. It might only take one drink for you to hit the legal limit and to be charged with an offense.
Marijuana-Related Underage DUI
An underage DUI with marijuana is charged under 18 Pa. Code §3802(d), which prohibits anyone from driving, operating, or being in physical control of the movement of a vehicle when:
- There is a Schedule I, II, or III controlled substance in their body, or a metabolite of a substance;
- You are under the influence of a drug or combination of drugs;
- You are under the combined influence of drugs and alcohol; or
- You are under the influence of a solvent or noxious substance.
Is a First-Time Underage DUI a Felony?
No, an underage DUI is not a felony. Getting a DUI under 21 years old leads to misdemeanor charges. If this is your first DUI arrest, then you will face an ungraded misdemeanor. However, you will face a higher misdemeanor charge if this is a second underage DUI offense, you caused a crash that led to bodily injuries or fatalities, or if you had a minor under the age of 18 years old in the vehicle with you. In these situations, you may face a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to five years in prison.
The Penalty for an Underage DUI in or Around Greensburg
If you are convicted of an underage DUI, you can be penalized with:
- At least two days in jail
- Driver’s license suspension for one year
- Fines between $500 and $5,000
- Alcohol highway safety school
- Alcohol or drug treatment
Collateral Consequences of an Underage DUI in Greensburg
Additionally, there are other underage DUI consequences. When you lose your license, you may not be able to get to and from class. If you cannot rely on friends or family for rides or public transportation, you may be forced to leave college.
If you rely on private grants and scholarships, a DUI conviction could place those in jeopardy. If your DUI was related to marijuana or another drug, and you were also convicted of a drug crime while receiving student loans, you could lose your eligibility for federal financial aid. You might need to complete a drug rehabilitation program before you can get federal loans again.
If you had hoped to study abroad, you might encounter a problem. Many other nations will refuse visas to people with criminal records, and an underage DUI will give you a criminal record. You may have to ask special permission to go to Canada, Mexico, and many other countries.
Your job may also be affected. If you cannot get to and from work reliably, you may be let go. You also cannot take on any job that requires driving, such as being a delivery driver.
You also need to consider the financial ramifications of an underage DUI. In addition to the fines, you will have to pay court costs. You will need to pay reinstatement fees to get your license back. You also will face higher insurance premiums because you will be labeled a riskier driver.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition Program
When you are facing an underage DUI charge, you may be eligible for Pennsylvania’s ARD program. This is a diversionary program. You do not have to plead guilty for this program. Instead, will go through a probationary period during which time you must fulfill several court requirements. Once these are all complete, the charge will be expunged from your record.
The ARD program may be your best choice for maintaining a clean driving and criminal record.
However, if you have your commercial license or hope to become a CDL driver, this is may not be the right choice for you. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation considers ARD a guilty verdict in regard to CDL licenses, and your license will be disqualified.
We Represent College Students in Pennsylvania
At Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, our juvenile attorneys represent students at local colleges and universities, including:
- Pennsylvania State University
- Penn State-Harrisburg
- Penn State-York
- University of Pittsburgh
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania
- Carnegie Melon University
- California University of Pennsylvania
- Duquesne University
- Robert Morris University
- Slippery Rock University
- Point Park University
- Community College Allegheny County
- Harrisburg Area Community College
- Harrisburg University of Science and Technology
- Temple University Harrisburg
- Widener University School of Law
- Messiah College
- Dickinson College
- Dixon University Center
- Elizabethtown College
- Lebanon Valley College
Contact a Greensburg Underage DUI Lawyer at Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys
The best way to avoid the consequences of an underage DUI, from jail time and fines to difficulties at school, is to hire a DUI lawyer with considerable experience handling underage cases right away. By hiring a skilled attorney, you will have someone to fight for the charges to be dropped. This is often the best-case scenario. If a prosecutor insists on charging you with an underage DUI, then we will fight to defend you. We will talk with you about your options, including the possibility of going to trial or negotiating a plea. No matter what, our goal will be to obtain the best possible outcome.
To learn more about how Worgul, Sarna & Ness, Criminal Defense Attorneys, LLC can protect you or your child against an underage DUI, contact us online or call (724) 834-1275.