No Proof Beer Cans Contained Alcohol

The two clients attended a party at a State College apartment near the Penn State University Park Campus. The clients were seated on a couch, and beer cans were strewn across the coffee table in front of them. The State College police did not get a warrant but did have consent to lawfully enter the apartment. After entering, the officers noticed that the clients were seated directly in front of the beer cans. Based on the clients’ close proximity to the beer cases, the officers gave the clients summary citations for Possession of Alcohol by a Minor under 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308. While we generally call the charge Underage Drinking, a minor can be charged for merely possessing alcohol without any evidence of drinking or consumption.

At the summary trial, experienced Penn State Underage Drinking attorney Jason S. Dunkle argued that the clients must be found not guilty of the alcohol-related charges because the police had failed to confirm that the cans contained any alcohol. The police are not required to send the liquid to a lab for testing in order to charge a underage person with possession of alcohol. In order to prove possession of alcohol, the police often smell the contents of the can to note the odor of alcohol, then they dump the can to confirm that the liquid within is amber in color. In this case, the officers did nothing to confirm that the cans contain anything.

The State College judge agreed with the criminal defense lawyer and found the clients not guilty of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor because the police had failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the clients had possessed a malt or brewed beverage. The experienced Penn State expungement lawyer then filed an expungement petition with the Centre County court to have the charges expunged from the clients’ criminal records.