Philadelphia Underage Drinking Lawyer | Defending Against Underage Drinking Charges in PA and NJ
Fighting Philadelphia, PA Underage Drinking Charges
The Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC can help you or your son or daughter with underage drinking charges. We regularly defend clients in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including in the Philadelphia Municipal Court as well as the Magisterial District Courts in Delaware, Chester, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys have had tremendous success in defending clients against underage drinking charges as well as in other summary cases. If you or your loved one has been cited for underage drinking, call 267-225-2545 for a free 15-minute criminal defense strategy session.
Pennsylvania Underage Drinking Laws
Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal for someone under 21 to:
buy or try to buy alcohol,
possess alcohol, or
This includes beer, wine, and liquor.
The law defines alcohol as any liquor, malt, or brewed beverage containing .50 percent or more alcohol by volume. Because underage drinking is a summary offense, underage drinking cases in Philadelphia are heard in the Philadelphia Municipal Court. In the suburban counties, they are heard by Magisterial District Justices.
Penalties for Underage Drinking in Pennsylvania
Am I going to lose my driver's license for underage drinking in Pennsylvania?
No. Although a conviction for underage drinking previously required a driver’s license suspension, the Pennsylvania Legislature recently amended the law to eliminate this mandatory suspension. Therefore, a first-offense conviction for underage drinking will no longer result in a driver’s license suspension. However, there are other consequences of a conviction, including:
Pennsylvania law makes underage drinking a summary offense punishable by a $500 fine for a first offense and an increased fine of $1,000 for a second or subsequent offense.
Summary offenses in Pennsylvania count as criminal convictions and can lead to having a permanent criminal record.
Summary offenses are not as serious as misdemeanors or felonies, but many colleges and employers still require applicants to disclose arrests and convictions.
A citation for underage drinking may show up on a criminal background check, and many schools and professional licensing boards may require disclosure of a conviction.
Is Underage Drinking a crime, or is it just a ticket?
Underage drinking is a summary offense, and all summary offenses are technically criminal violations under Pennsylvania law. This means that despite the fact that underage drinking is extremely common, underage drinking does count as a crime. A conviction for underage drinking could show up on a criminal background check. As with any criminal conviction, there can be significant collateral consequences in terms of future employment, professional licensing, and college admissions. Therefore, it is critically important that you retain an experienced defense attorney if you or your child are facing an underage drinking charge. We may be able to help you avoid the high fines and collateral consequences that could result from a conviction.
Defenses to Underage Drinking Charges
Although the underage drinking statute is fairly straight-forward, you should not automatically assume that there are no defenses to underage drinking and that you are going to lose your driver's license.
First, there are often pre-trial diversionary programs available to minors who are charged with this summary offense. Depending on the case, our criminal lawyers may be able to negotiate with the prosecution a client to be admitted into a pre-trial diversionary program and avoid a conviction.
Second, just as with any other offense, the government must prove that the defendant committed the crime of underage drinking beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, if a diversionary program is not an option or not advisable, our lawyers will closely work with you to determine whether there are potential defenses at trial such as the credibility of the government's witnesses or the sufficiency of the evidence. Our criminal defense lawyers are well-versed in challenging the Commonwealth's evidence even in summary cases. In some cases, we may even be able to challenge whether the police followed the law when detaining and investigating the client. If they did not, the evidence or case could be thrown out. Most importantly, we will fight to protect your record and driver's license from underage drinking charges.
WE CAN HELP WITH UNDERAGE DRINKING CASES
If you are facing charges for underage drinking in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, you should speak with a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. Call 267-225-2545 today for a free 15-minute criminal defense strategy session to discuss your case and begin building a defense.