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.
Transportation will be difficult without a license
If you normally drive every day to work and school then you will face some difficult adjustments after getting caught drinking alcohol. Anyone charged with underage drinking in Pennsylvania will get their license suspended for 90 days, 1 year for the second offense, and 2 years for the third. You will have to start asking your parents and friends for rides everywhere, especially for school. If no one is available then losing your license could mean losing your job.
Academic probation or suspension is possible
Whether you are in high school or college you can get academic probation or suspension for getting caught drinking. Policies on underage drinking vary from school to school but probation is common for the first offense and suspension is usually reserved for repeated offenses. In addition to suspension, if you are caught drinking on campus you could be expelled from campus housing. This could mean having to live with your parents or find an apartment away from campus.
Graduation could be delayed
If you are in high school and miss too many classes due to jail time, limited transportation, or suspension, then you might not be able to graduate on time. This can be devastating after spending years thinking of that graduation moment with your friends.
An underage drinking charge can easily turn into a lasting impact. Fortunately some of these penalties can be avoided through adjudication alternative programs. These programs are typically offered for first time offenders. An experienced attorney can help vouch for your placement into these programs. If it is your second or third offense then an attorney can help build a strong defense to reduce the penalties.