Having a few beers after a football game or some glasses of wine with your friends is part of most people’s college experience. However, if you are caught having alcohol when you are under 21, Pennsylvania police will handle your drinking as a serious matter.
In neighborhoods near Pittsburgh-area colleges, including the Duquesne University, Carnegie Mellon University, University of Pittsburgh, or Point Park University, complaints about loud parties and binge-drinking students have prompted law enforcement to respond swiftly and harshly to alcohol violations. Today’s students run a greater risk than ever of being caught and prosecuted.
If you are charged with underage drinking, the consequences can range from suspension of your driver’s license to a criminal record. Even worse is if you are underage and charged in Pennslyvania with a DUI. The aftermath can have a negative impact for years to come.
Underage Drinking Penalties
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
How A Criminal Record Will Complicate Your Life
Having a criminal record is probably the most devastating consequence of an underage drinking conviction. As soon as you are given a citation, the charges will appear on your record. If you are job hunting in today’s competitive market, you will immediately feel the negative repercussions of a criminal record. Potential employers who run a background check will see your conviction and be less likely to hire you, particularly if you are interviewing for a job in the medical, legal, or pharmaceutical fields and/or if you are seeking a job that requires a security clearance. A criminal record can make it harder for you to obtain a student loan or federal student financial aid. If you are applying for graduate school, a criminal record will weigh against you with admissions officers during the application process.
What Pennsylvania Law Says About Underage Drinking
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 will notify the parents or guardian of the minor charged. There are some exceptions and an experienced defense attorney can evaluate the circumstances where an exception may occur. For example, if you were caught consuming alcohol underage because you were calling for emergency help for another person, there may be a defense to your charge.
Alcohol is defined by the law as any beverage that contains 0.50 percent or more alcohol by volume (ABV).
Steps To Take If You Are Charged
If you, or your college-aged child, have been charged with underage drinking, your first step should be to consult with an experienced Pittsburgh student and underage crimes attorney. Before your hearing is even scheduled, a defense attorney can begin negotiations with police or prosecutors to have your charges dismissed or reduced.
If you’re fighting your charge and have not yet retained an attorney, you will need to enter a plea of not guilty with the court. 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 prior to this, 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 Drinking Case – Call Our Pittsburgh Underage Drinking Lawyers
If you or your child is arrested, your defense attorney will work behind the scenes to have the charges dismissed or lowered and the fines reduced. Your lawyer will be at your side when you appear in court. If there are witnesses brought in to try and prove your guilt, your juvenile defense attorneys will question them closely to determine the accuracy of their memory and challenge their recall. If your case is dismissed, you will be eligible to have your criminal record cleared (expunged). Your attorney can take the necessary steps to help you clear your record so you can move on with your life.