The Law Office of Marc J. Semke
A Criminal Defense And Youth Advocacy Firm In York, Pennsylvania

York Legal Blog

Underage drinking and driving: penalties in Pennsylvania

When you are under 21, it can be tempting to drink, especially if you have friends who are of legal age. The pressure to fit in is heavy and could lead to getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. If the police pull you over and find that you are driving under the influence of alcohol, they can charge you with underage driving under the influence (DUI).

According to MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, roughly one-fourth of all crashes involve an underage driver who has been drinking. What are the penalties for this charge?

Understanding Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition

You may have heard of Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition if you or someone you know is facing DUI charges for the first time. This program may be beneficial if the offense was your first. You may be wondering what ARD is and how it works.

Accelerated rehabilitative disposition is a “pre-trial diversionary” program that is unique to Pennsylvania. The program encourages offenders to make a fresh start and offers the possibility of a clean record following successful completion of the program.

Possible defenses to underage drinking charges

The legal age to consume alcohol in Pennsylvania is one of the most widely known laws in the state. Simply put, it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcoholic beverages. A person who violates the law could be subject to mandatory fines, alcohol treatment programs or both. This is in addition to having a criminal record that can follow you for years.

Because the violation of underage drinking statutes is a strict liability offense (i.e., no intent is required to be proven), most may believe that they are immediately guilty, but this may not always be the case. Pennsylvania law allows for several affirmative defenses that can be asserted to avoid a conviction.

What happens if I get a second DUI in Pennsylvania?

Getting a DUI for the first time can be a stressful event. A second time can feel even worse. We've discussed what happens on a first offense, but it's important to know how a second offense could impact you.

Second offenses are still subject to the three-tiered blood alcohol content (BAC) definitions, but the fines and penalties increase with each subsequent offense.

Minor drug offenders in PA fight to keep their licenses

The 14th amendment to the United States Constitution declares that no state shall “deny to any person…equal protection of the laws.” Yet some Pennsylvania residents are arguing that punishments for minor drug convictions violate the 14th amendment.

Here is why some are saying that it’s time Pennsylvania changes its approach to punishing minor drug offenders.

Making the law work for you, not against you

When you are pulled over for DUI or charged with possession, you may feel that the system of law has turned against you. Arrest leads to conviction, which leads to punishment, and permanent damage to your reputation.

It is a depressing prospect. But you do not need to be defenseless. In York, Camp Hill or throughout the Harrisburg region, Marc Semke has been putting the law on the side of citizens, including young citizens, for more than a decade.

Diversion programs can dispel underage DUI charges

Being convicted of a DUI as a minor could drastically affect your child’s future. If he or she is arrested for drunk driving, you may have an alternative to fighting the case in court. The accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program allows first-time offenders, both adults and minors, to avoid a mark on their records if they successfully complete the program.

Things to know about a first DUI in Pennsylvania

People rarely plan on being pulled over by law enforcement and even fewer people plan on being charged with driving under the influence. Even so, it does happen. While some people are under the impression that a single DUI conviction is not a huge deal, it can have very real consequences.

In the state of Pennsylvania, any DUI conviction will have significant penalties, but the severity of these penalties generally depends on the driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) and the circumstances under which they were caught.

The real-world consequences of underage drinking

It can feel like everyone is drinking under the age of 21 in high school and college. According to last year's National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 7.7 million Americans between age 12 and 20 said they consumed alcohol. By age 20 over half of Americans have participated in underage drinking. Parents and teens should know that although there might be some intense peer pressure to drink, the real-world consequences for getting caught underage drinking are serious. Even one mistake can lead to consequences that spread through personal life, school and work.

Fines and jail time could be in the near future

The first penalties that come to mind for underage drinking are usually fines and jail time. If you are caught by the police drinking underage in Pennsylvania then you could pay up to $500 in fines. For a second or any following offenses it will cost up to $1000. As a young person with limited time to work it can be very difficult to pay for those fines. On top of the fines you could have to spend up to 90 days in jail.