Admission to Drinking Beer Not Sufficient to Convict
The client was attending a Penn State football game when he was stopped by a police officer at a Penn State tailgate. The client admitted to having consumed “beer.” Based on the admission, the client was charged with Underage Drinking under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308. At the summary trial, the officer testified as to the client’s date of birth so that the judge could find that the client was under 21. However, in order to prove that the client was drunk, the officer only testified that he admitted to drinking “beer.”
State College defense attorney Jason S. Dunkle argued that an admission to drinking “beer” was not sufficient evidence to prove that the client had been drinking alcohol. In many cases, the officer presents circumstantial evidence of drinking and obtains a conviction in Penn State Underage Drinking cases. For example, the officer testifies that the person had slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, difficulty standing, and an odor of alcohol on the breath. Under Pennsylvania law, a charge of Underage Drinking requires proof that the person consumed “liquor or malt or brewed beverages,” and the definition of “brewed beverage” requires proof that the beverage contains “0.50% or more of alcohol by volume.” The experienced Underage Drinking attorney argued that an admission to drinking “beer” was not sufficient evidence to prove that the client had consumed a beverage that was .50% or higher proof. Simply stated, the “beer” that client consumed could have been non-alcoholic beer, which is discussed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Williamson.
The State College judge agreed that the term “beer” could have included an admission to drinking a non-alcoholic beverage, so the judge found the client not guilty of alcohol consumption by a minor. Attorney Dunkle filed an expungement petition with the Centre County court to have the Underage Drinking charge expunged from the client’s criminal record.