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Underage Drinking; Several Things You Need to Know

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Aside from a hefty fine, there are several important things to know about the crime of underage drinking.

Image result for police car with juvenile and pbt 

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Underage Drinking Defense Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

The crime of underage drinking found in 18 Pa.C.S. Section 6308 is defined as follows: "A person commits a summary offense if he, being less than 21 years of age, attempts to purchase, purchases, consumes, possesses or knowingly and intentionally transports any liquor or malt or brewed beverages..."

A couple points based upon the definition of the offense:

1) You do not need to drink alcohol to be charged with this crime.  You can be under 21 and driving a car owned and registered to you that contains alcohol and be cited for this crime.  It doesn't matter if everyone else in the car is 21.  You are transporting it and can be charged.  If there's alcohol in the car, make someone legal drive your car.

2) You can be charged for attempting to purchase alcohol.  You need not actually have to possess it.

3) The "Good Samaritan Rule"- You cannot be charged if you are drinking and are under 21 if you make a call to emergency personnel for someone else who has been drinking and needs immediate medical attention.  You need to make the 911 call and remain at the scene with the person.

4) The police must notify your parents/guardians when you are charged.  You might as well call them first and break the news to them.  Rather they hear it from you than an officer.  Don't try to hide it from them; deal with it.

Additional points:

5) You are entitled to have your criminal record and driving record expunged after you turn 21.

6) You insurance company is prohibited from cancelling or raising your insurance rates due to a license suspension for underage drinking.

18 Pa.C.S. § 6310.4(d) provides as follows:

Insurance Premiums.-An insurer shall not increase premiums, impose any surcharge or rate penalty, or make any driver record point assignment for automobile insurance, nor shall an insurer cancel or refuse to renew an automobile insurance policy on account of a suspension under this section.

State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Com., 124 A.3d 775, 777 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2015), reargument denied (Nov. 16, 2015).

7) The suspension period is 90 days for a first offense; 1 year for a second offense.  Some courts will allow you to complete a pre-adjudication program, which requires alcohol and driver safety classes.  It may also require community service.  You will still get a license suspension, however.  But, the charge is dismissed.

8) You can still drive even if suspended.  You may apply for a receive an Occupational Limited License ("OLL"), which is sometimes referred to as a "Bread and Butter" license.  This will only allow you to drive for limited reasons; including school, work, and for medical reasons.  You need to fill out a DL-15 form and submit it to PADOT after you receive your notification that you will need to surrender your license on a date certain.  Here's the link for the form: http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Public/DVSPubsForms/BDL/BDL%20Form/DL-15-15A.pdf 

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