Possible Penalties for Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is a fact of life. If you’re underaged yourself, you know this to be true, and if you’re a parent of somebody under the age of 21 and you think they aren’t drinking alcohol, there’s a very good chance that you’re fooling yourself. Consider these statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • In a 2017 survey of high school students asking about their drinking over a 7-day period, 30% had consumed some alcohol, 14% binge drank, 6% drank after consuming alcohol, and 17% rode with a driver who had consumed alcohol.
  • In 2010, underage drinking was blamed for the deaths of 4,300 underaged youth
  • People between the age of 12 and 20 account for 11% of all alcohol sales in the U.S., despite those sales being illegal
  • In 2013, underage drinking resulted in injuries and other conditions that required 119,000 emergency room visits

Beyond the obvious risks to health and safety posed by underage drinking, there is also the very real risk of being arrested. In the state of Pennsylvania, people who are underage and caught drinking alcohol run the risk of being charged with a criminal offense and facing criminal penalties. Pennsylvania considers underage drinking a “summary offense”: a person under 21 can be charged with a wide range of charges, including attempting to purchase, actually purchasing, possessing, consuming or transporting any kind of alcoholic beverage. The fine for a first offense is $500 and the loss of driving privileges for up to 90 days, while second-time offenders can see a $1000 fine and a one-year loss of driving privileges. Any conviction will permanently be added to the young person’s criminal record, a consequence that can impact college applications, job applications, and the premiums that you have to pay for auto insurance.

The most obvious way to avoid these outcomes is to stay away from drinking, but whether that is realistic is a different question. Whether you are the parent of a person under the age of 21 who has been charged with underage drinking or you were charged yourself, the most important step you can take is to contact an experienced attorney who can defend you against these charges. The goal is to have charges dropped or reduced in a way that keeps your criminal record clear.

To see how we can help with an underage drinking charge, contact us today to set up a convenient time for an appointment.