As a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Western Pennsylvania, I help my clients with all charges. Under the Pennsylvania Criminal Code, it is illegal for a minor to purchase, consumer, possess, or transport liquor or a malt beverage. This crime applies regardless of what county you live in, whether it be Allegheny, Washington, Westmoreland, Beaver, Butler, Erie, Center, Blair, etc. In this case, a minor is anyone less than 21 years of age. The full legal definition of this crime is found at 18 PACS 6308.
To the general public, this crime is often known as “Underage Drinking.” However, this crime covers a lot more than just drinking alcohol while under the age of 21. The true title of the crime is “Purchase, Consumption, Possession, or Transportation of Liquor or Malt or Brewed Beverages.” So, as you can see, the defense of “I never drank any of the beer,” does not always work. The Criminal Code is specifically written so broad that if you are caught in a room full of empty containers, and you are under 21 years of age, the police have enough probable cause to charge you with this crime.
If you are convicted of the crime of Underage Drinking, you will be sentenced to a Summary Offense with all applicable fines and possible jail time. If you have more than one conviction of Underage Drinking, you are looking at an increase in the fine amount as well.
Perhaps worse than the fines, possible jail time, and the Summary Offense Record that will appear in background checks for at least the next 5 years, is that a conviction of this crime will suspend your driver’s license. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDot”) controls your driver’s license and is completely separate from your criminal conviction. If you plead guilty, or are found guilty, you will lose your license and there is no way around it. According to the Pennsylvania Criminal Code, even if you do community service in order to have your case dismissed, you will still lose your license.
Fighting charges of “Underage Drinking,” or charges of Purchase, Consumption, Possession, or Transportation of an Alcoholic Beverage, can be very difficult because of the broad nature of the statute. However, that does not mean these criminal cases are impossible to win. I have been very successful in achieving results for my clients that include no conviction, no fines, no jail time, and no license suspension. Don’t wait until the last minute, contact my office today.