Amish Man Charged With DUI After Friend Rode on Buggy Roof

The police are familiar with observing Amish buggies on roadways in rural Central Pennsylvania, but they do not often see young men riding on top of the buggies. Some Pennsylvania State Troopers in Indiana County recently encountered such a sight and conducted a traffic stop of the Amish buggy. The stop led to the discovery that the passengers were under 21 and were drunk, and the police also found that the underage driver was also drunk and thereby charged with driving under the influence. According to an online article, the driver’s blood alcohol was .065%. As most people know, the legal limit for adults is .08%, but the legal blood alcohol level for someone under 21 who is behind the wheel is .02%.

Severe Penalties for Driving Under the Influence by Minor

Even though the young man had a blood alcohol level that was relatively low, and even though he was not driving a car, he still faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 48 hours in jail, $500.00 fine, and a 12‑month suspension of his Pennsylvania driving privileges. Because he is an Amish kid, the suspension obviously doesn’t have an impact on his ability to operate a buggy on the road. In Pennsylvania, a person needs a license to operate a “motor vehicle” on a roadway, so the Amish man would not need a license to ride his scooter or drive a buggy. The DUI law applies to both motor and non-motor vehicles, but state licensing laws only apply to motor vehicles. If the young man were drunk in his buggy again, or even drunk on his scooter, he could be charged with another DUI, but he could not be charged with Driving Under Suspension because a license is not needed to operate those vehicles.

No Blood Alcohol Reading Needed for Underage Drinking

Many people also believe that a threshold level of alcohol is required for an Underage Drinking charge. For example, I talk to many Penn State students who are charged with Underage Drinking under 18 Pa.C.S. § 6308, and the students think that they can fight the charge because the officer did not obtain a blood or breath test that showed a blood alcohol concentration level above .02%. The .02% is only required for a DUI and is not required for Underage Drinking.

Because no specific blood alcohol level is needed for an Underage charge, most Underage Drinking cases are proven through circumstantial evidence. Penn State Underage Drinking and State College Public Drunkenness cases normally involve testimony about the odor of alcohol on breath, slurred speech, difficulty standing, and, in some more extreme cases, people being passed out and lying in the roadway or having urinated themselves. More and more officers are taking photos or even videos of suspects that can later be shown in court to evidence the level of intoxication.

Underage Drinking Charges Can Appear on Background Searches

People often question whether or not an Underage Drinking charge or other summary offenses will appear on a background search. The answer is that it depends upon the type of search that is conducted. Summary offenses are readily searchable and easily accessible through the UJS Portal of the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC). Some government entities only search the Pennsylvania State Police database and thereby generally do not find summary charges. However, most private employers hire a background search company that does search the AOPC database, which means that private employers do often find summary charges. Because such charges often appear on background searches, it is important to consult an experienced defense attorney to obtain the best possible resolution in the case.