Party at Pennsylvania College Leads to Forty-Five Underage Drinking Citations

College campuses across Pennsylvania and across the United States are full of underage drinkers and underage drinking parties. While the partying activity is widespread, it is still illegal and not ignored by most police departments. In a recent York County, Pennsylvania incident, a few York College students decided to host a party and possibly make some money by charging $10.00 per person to attend. Because their marketing budget was limited, the young entrepreneurs turned to Facebook to spread the word. Regrettably, they failed to understand that the police also have access to social media.

According to an online article, 45 underage drinking citations were issued. While Underage Drinking is a summary offense, such offenses are appearing on criminal background searches with more frequency as employers and background search companies are searching the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) database and not just the Pennsylvania State Police Repository. With such charges appearing on criminal history checks, it is now important to avoid a conviction and thereby allow the dismissed charge to be expunged from the government records.

Aside from the criminal record, a conviction carries a mandatory suspension of Pennsylvania driving privileges. Many college students work over the summer to save money for the return to college or to complete internships to pad the resume. A license suspension obviously poses a huge impediment to summer employment. Hiring an experienced defense lawyer, like members of the Pennsylvania Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (PACDL), may not guarantee that a person can avoid a conviction or the associated suspension, but the likelihood of obtaining a more favorable outcome increases substantially.

Pennsylvania Furnishing Alcohol to Minors Charges

The party hosts are likely to be charged with misdemeanor offenses related to furnishing alcohol to minors. In State College, most police officers file a misdemeanor furnishing charge under the Crimes Code and a second charge under the Liquor Code. Both charges are misdemeanor offenses, but the Liquor Code violation is slightly less severe and is a bit easier to prove. The Crimes Code furnishing charge under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6310.1 requires the police to present evidence that the furnisher knew that the recipient was under 21. With the Liquor Code, violation under 47 P.S. § 4-493 does not require proof of the suppliers knowledge of the recipient’s age. As an example, assume that a person hosted a party and intentionally did not ask the age or request identification from the partygoers. The person could then argue that he didn’t “know” that the attendees were under 21. While this tactic may be effective in  shielding the party host from a furnishing charge under the Crimes Code, it would not insulate a prosecution under the Liquor Code.

Another defense that some people raise is that the underage attendees brought their own alcohol to the party, so the party host did not actually “furnish” anyone with alcohol. The problem with this argument is that the definition of “furnish” under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code includes allowing a person to drink in an area under the control of the party host. The law puts an affirmative duty on a party host to remove underage drinkers from the premises. If a host allows a minor to drink, then the host can be charged with furnishing alcohol to minors in Pennsylvania.

Many first-time offenders of furnishing alcohol to minors are permitted to participate in a pre-trial diversionary program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). Under such a program, the participant pleads not guilty to the charges but accepts a punishment from the court as part of the program. Upon successful completion of the program, the charges can be dismissed and can normally be expunged. The program avoids a conviction and thereby allows for destruction of the criminal record maintained by the government. Avoiding a conviction and record is obviously very important to college students that are just about to start their professional careers.