Pittsburgh-area colleges have strict policies in place to comply with Pennsylvania’s laws prohibiting underage possession of alcohol. If you are caught with a drink on campus and you are under 21, school authorities will ensure that you are charged with an alcohol violation. Often, the way minors find themselves in trouble for underage possession of alcohol is that they are at a loud party when the police are called in to break it up — and they are caught with beer. You could be facing repercussions from your campus judicial and student enforcement boards as well as criminal charges.
If you were charged with underage possession of alcohol and need skilled legal representation, contact a juvenile defense attorney at (412) 281-2146 for a free consultation.
Penalties for Underage Possession of Alcohol
If you are arrested for underage drinking, the risks are:
- You will have to appear in court
- Your parents will be notified
- If convicted, you will have to pay a fine
- Your driver’s license may be suspended
- You can be sentenced to as many as 90 days in jail
- You may be burdened with a criminal record
What Pennsylvania Law Says About Underage Possession of Alcohol
If you are under the age of 21 it is illegal to:
- Attempt to purchase alcohol
- Purchase alcohol
- Consume alcohol
- Possess alcohol, or
- Knowingly and intentionally transport any alcohol.
If you are convicted of this law you are facing:
- a license suspension of 90 days, 1 year, or 2 years depending on how prior offenses you have, and
- a $500 fine for a first conviction or a $1000 fine for a subsequent conviction,
- a record of criminal conduct that employers and schools will see if they look.
The police department making an arrest for a suspected violation of subsection underage drinking and underage possession of alcohol will notify the parents or guardian of the minor charged.
It’s important to hire a Pittsburgh underage drinking attorney because there are some exceptions to these laws, and an attorney can evaluate your case to see if any of these exceptions might apply to your defense. For example, if you were caught consuming or possessing alcohol under the age of 21 because you were calling for emergency help for someone else, you may have a defense.
Alcohol is defined by the law as any beverage that contains 0.50 percent or more alcohol by volume (ABV).If you are under 21, Pennsylvania law makes it illegal to possess alcohol, which is defined by the law as any beverage that contains 0.50 percent or more alcohol by volume (ABV).
Underage possession of alcohol is a summary offense.
Steps To Take If You Are Charged
If you, or your college-aged child, have been charged with underage possession of alcohol, your first step should be to immediately hire a lawyer. Before your hearing is even scheduled, an experienced juvenile defense attorney can advise you on what you should and should not say to the police, understand what the prosecution’s evidence is against you, and negotiate with the Commonwealth to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
Whether you have retained an attorney or not, you will need to plead not guilty as soon as possible. You can do this by marking your citation as not guilty, signing your name, and then mailing it back to the magistrate’s office along with a check for the collateral fee (usually $50). If you hire an attorney, he or she can take care of the paperwork for you and the collateral fee will not be necessary.
About two weeks after you are charged, the magistrate’s office will send you a notice with the date for your hearing.
Fighting Your Underage Possession of Alcohol Case
If you or your child is arrested, your defense attorney can begin working with the prosecution to determine what you’re facing and negotiate from there. Your attorney will also be with you to defend your case when you appear in court. He or she may question the Commonwealth’s witnesses for accuracy, memory, and more.
If your case is dismissed, you will be eligible to have your criminal record cleared (expunged). This process is long and at times complex, so having an attorney help you apply for this can be helpful.