You might think that of all the various things that Pennsylvania prohibits, underage drinking is one of the least damaging to society. Children will grow up and eventually start drinking alcohol when they’re older, so what’s wrong with letting them have a sip now and then?
However, studies have suggested that kids who start drinking at an early age are four times more likely to have problems with alcohol consumption when they get older.
The underage drinking problem is also getting bigger. Pennsylvania’s records also reveal that from 2017 to 2021, the state issued 45,402 citations for underage drinking.
Given the context, Pennsylvania has understandably strict laws on underage drinking. If an officer catches your child or a young relative, you can expect a long list of fines and even imprisonment for minors of a certain age range.
Penalties for minors drinking or attempting to acquire alcohol
The following are offenses under Pennsylvania law and are punishable by the corresponding penalties:
- Misrepresentation of age: If a minor tries to pass off their age as 21 or above in an attempt to obtain alcohol, officials can charge them with a summary offense. For their first conviction, the minor will face a maximum fine of $300 and a third-degree misdemeanor on their record. Later convictions carry a $500 fine.
- Illegal transportation of alcohol: It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase, consume, possess or transport alcohol. Violating this law is a summary offense with up to $500 in fines for a first conviction. Later convictions can reach up to $1,000 in fines.
- False IDs: It’s against the law for anyone under 21 to carry an ID card with false identification information, such as indicating that the minor is 21 or older, to purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol. It’s also illegal for minors to use the ID of another older person to make alcohol purchases. A first conviction leads to a summary offense on record, while later convictions are third-degree misdemeanors. However, minors between 18 and 20 can be imprisoned for up to 90 days for their first conviction, on top of $300 fines. Penalties for later convictions can lead to up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of $500.
A minor facing summary offense or misdemeanor charges can be life-changing – for all the wrong reasons. A criminal record while young can hurt a child’s future education, employment and financial opportunities. If your child faces these charges, don’t take them lightly. You might want to consider your legal options carefully because your child’s future is at stake.