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What are the penalties for underage drinking?

It's a choice many college students make: drinking while under the legal age of 21 at a college party or gathering. It may seem like no big deal to enjoy a drink while socializing on campus. But an underage drinking conviction comes with penalties that may be heftier than you think.

An underage drinking charge is not a felony or misdemeanor, but it can result in jail time, fines and driver's license suspension. It is classified as a non-traffic summary offense. Here are the penalties for an underage drinking conviction in Pennsylvania for the first offense and each subsequent offense:

  • First offense: Maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, fines of up to $500 and a driver's license suspension of 90 days
  • Second offense: Maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, fines of up to $1,000 and a driver's license suspension of one year
  • Third offense: Maximum sentence of 90 days in jail, fines up to $1,000 and a driver's license suspension of two years

Jail time

It's important to note that while jail time or incarceration is one of the penalties for all underage drinking offenses, this penalty is rarely imposed. A criminal defense attorney experienced in defending college students against these types of charges can help reduce or get rid of the jail time penalty altogether.

Driver's license suspension

The driver's license suspension penalty heavily increases with each offense, going from 90 days to two years. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania law is strict about this penalty. If you are charged with underage drinking, you may be worried about how that will impact your driving privileges and your ability to get to and from your classes, run errands or visit home. If it's your first offense, an attorney can help you obtain an occupational limited license to allow you to drive to necessary destinations while your license is suspended.

Do I need an attorney?

A skilled attorney can help find weaknesses in your case to prevent the conviction from happening in the first place. Each case is different, so attorneys typically offer a free consultation to present what happened and get some insight on how to proceed from the charge. It's important to know that although an underage drinking conviction is not a felony or misdemeanor, it would still go on your public record and be visible to future employers. Having an attorney to represent you is wise so that you can protect your future as much as possible from an underage drinking conviction.

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