A Pennsylvania judge in Washington County recently imposed a sentence in a case involving allegations that a 25-year-old woman provided alcohol to minors. Some of the minors left the party, got into an accident, and the accident resulted in the death of one minor and injured another two. The woman pleaded guilty to four counts of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors under § 6310.1 of the Crimes Code, and a charge of Involuntary Manslaughter was dismissed.
While the term "furnishing" generally makes people think that the alcohol must be provided directly to the minor, a person can actually be convicted of furnishing alcohol to a minor if the person allowed minors to consume alcohol in the person's home. The legal definition of "furnishing" under section 6310.6 is allowing a minor to possess alcohol on premises or property owned or controlled by the person charged. I often see this happen in cases involving Penn State students that host an underage drinking party and think that they can avoid furnishing charges by claiming that the party was BYOB, meaning that all the guests brought their own booze. The problem is that BYOB parties do not avoid the charges. The person allowed minors to consume alcohol at the apartment, so the person can be charged with furnishing alcohol to minors. In Centre County furnishing incidents, the suspect is often charged with two offenses, one under the Crimes Code and a second under the Liquor Code.
Penalties for Furnishing Alcohol to Minors in Pennsylvania
Section 6310.1 grades the crimes of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor as a misdemeanor of the third degree. The maximum sentence for a third-degree misdemeanor is one year of incarceration and a $2,500.00 fine. Furnishing is one of the few charges that also imposes a mandatory fine, with the first violation being a $1,000.00 fine and subsequent violations being a $2,500.00 fine.
Imagine the number of furnishing charges that could be filed at a college underage drinking party as the furnisher could be charged with furnishing to every minor at the party. In most State College furnishing cases, the officers do file charges under both the Crimes Code and Liquor Code, but they normally only file charges for one or two of the minors. However, in cases in which the furnisher lied or was overly uncooperative, I have seen the police file many furnishing charges.
Furnishing Alcohol and ARD
Many Centre County furnishing alcohol to minors cases are resolved via participation in a first time offender program known as ARD. Successful completion of ARD allows the participant to have the charges dismissed and expunged. Most Pennsylvania prosecutors do distinguish between furnishing alcohol to person over 18 years of age and those under 18. Most prosecutors will prosecute a case involving a minor that is under the age of 18 more aggressively, possibly by even adding charges of Corruption of Minors. The idea is that people corrupting or providing alcohol to juveniles should be punished more severely.