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Underage Drinking and Large Groups a Problem During the Pandemic

August 04, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

The coronavirus pandemic has impacted everyone in Pennsylvania. During this very challenging time, people cannot work and kids cannot go to school and socialize with their friends. However, firefighters recently broke up an all-night party in the woods in rural Pennsylvania. The party-goers were all minors and many of them were drinking alcohol. Members of the volunteer fire department said that this was something that had been happening every weekend, and they urged parents to keep their children at home.

Of course, gatherings as large as this are a problem during the pandemic, but so too, is underage drinking. This is an offense that is taken very seriously in Pennsylvania.

What is Underage Drinking in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, the offense of underage drinking is known as ‘minor in possession.’ Under this law, a person under the age of 21 may face charges for consuming, possessing, or purchasing alcohol. Minors transporting alcohol knowingly and intentionally are also in violation of the law. The penalty for possessing, consuming, or purchasing alcohol is a $500 fine for a first offense, and up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense. Minors that have a driver’s license may also have it suspended if they are found guilty of underage drinking. Minors that use fake ID, or otherwise misrepresent their age in order to buy alcohol, will also be subject to a $500 fine.

A minor in possession charge is a summary offense, which means that minors will not have a trial in front of a jury. Instead, a judge will listen to the facts of the case before making their ruling. Minors that are found misrepresenting their age to buy alcohol a second or third time may no longer face a summary offense, but may be charged with a misdemeanor.

Exceptions to the Law

The law does have some exceptions in which a minor may work or be present in an establishment that serves alcohol. These include:

  • Workplaces: Someone aged 14 or 15 can work in an establishment that serves alcohol, but they may not serve or handle it. People aged 16 to 20 may work in establishments that sell alcohol, but they cannot serve it. Anyone over the age of 18 may work in an establishment that brews and distills alcohol and although these individuals can handle and deliver alcohol, they cannot serve it.
  • Licensed establishments: Minors can enter an establishment that sells alcohol when they are with their parents or guardian, but they still cannot possess or consume it.
  • Entertainment: Minors older than 18 can work as entertainers in establishments that sell alcohol, but they cannot consume or possess it. Minors under the age of 18 can be part of an exhibition or performance in an establishment as long as they are not paid and are under an instructor’s supervision.
  • Gatherings: Minors can gather socially and for school reasons in establishments that sell alcohol, as long as they are supervised by an adult.
  • Medical reasons: When minors call for medical assistance when they or another minor has consumed alcohol, they cannot be charged with underage drinking.
  • Compliance checks: Individuals over the age of 18 may purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, and transport alcohol if they are working with the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

Has Your Child Been Charged? Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers can Help

Underage drinking is taken very seriously in Pennsylvania, and one mistake could result in a permanent criminal record for your child. If your child has been charged, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim can help. We know the defenses available for these charges, and will use them to give your child the best chance of a positive outcome. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.


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