Underage Drinking Defense
Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Are Here to Help
Although charges that accompany an underage drinking arrest or citation are often summary offenses, which tend to carry relatively minor penalties, a conviction can remain on your record for a number of years and hamper future efforts to attend the college or graduate school of your choice, or gain desirable employment.
The charges also do carry the potential for a jail sentence. For a summary offense you can receive a fine of several hundred dollars and face a possible penalty of up to 90 days in jail. Of course, it is possible that when a person is drinking underage, this activity can lead to other types of charges beyond simply the underage drinking charge. For instance, the Blood Alcohol Content levels required for a DUI charge are substantially lower for a person under 21 than they are for a person over 21.
You could also end up in a situation where the police charge you with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, or you could end up with assault charges if there is a scuffle. We discuss many of these situations in sections throughout our website. If you are charged with one of these other offenses and would like to learn more about it, please visit that section.
Call (215) 302-0171 today to speak to Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lloyd Long.
What Exactly Is Underage Drinking?
An underage drinking charge does not require the police to actually catch you in the act of drinking or consuming alcohol. If you purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or consume an alcoholic beverage and you are under 21 years old, you have violated the underage drinking law. It is a separate offense to buy alcohol for a person who is underage, and you may also face other serious charges for allegedly doing so, such as Corruption of Minors.
Are There Any Options Besides Pleading Guilty?
Yes. The first thing any lawyer should do is evaluate whether you have a possible defense. For instance, did the item that you possessed meet the specific definition of alcoholic beverage in the statute? That question should be fairly easy to answer. Other possible defenses would be mere presence (you were only near others who were underage drinking), you did not actually possess the alcoholic beverages, or you were unaware of possessing them.
If any of these defenses are present, you may want to consider taking the case to trial or seeing if it can otherwise be dismissed. Sometimes an attorney can use a strong defense to negotiate a dismissal with the prosecution and it is always worth considering these options. Also, many counties throughout Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia and several of the surrounding counties, will offer a diversionary program for people cited for underage drinking.
These programs can be as simple as paying a fine and attending an alcohol awareness course, or they can include a fine and some community service, or some other combination of alternative dispositions. These programs will usually result in dismissal of the charges after successful completion of the conditions.
In any situation where the charges are dismissed or a judge finds you not guilty, you should be able to file a motion for an expungement, which your attorney can do if it is part of your agreement. Expungement means the government will erase the arrest from your record and employers or graduate schools should not be able to see it.
Can I Face Separate School Discipline?
Yes. Often a related concern when a student is charged with underage drinking are the disciplinary consequences you can face at school. Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Lloyd Long has represented a number of students in their school disciplinary proceedings for a wide range of disciplinary accusations including hazing, assault, and underage drinking.
These disciplinary hearings have resulted in many situations in favorable outcomes with minimal impact on the student. In these proceedings the school typically has broad authority to discipline students, but will also usually have a code of conduct specific to that school which will dictate what discipline the school is likely to hand out. When we represent clients in these proceedings we understand the importance of presenting the entire picture of the student to the school discipline committee to allow them to make the most favorable decision possible for our client.
Although the criminal consequences of these charges carry serious and significant penalties, you should also not discount the possibility that school disciplinary penalties can also severely impact you and your future.
Our Lawyers Can Help
Philadelphia criminal defense attorney Lloyd Long bring decades of experience in handling a wide variety of criminal issues including underage drinking arrests, and they understand the unique responsibility of representing young people facing criminal charges. Our attorneys are particularly skilled in minimizing the consequences for college students, graduate students, and young professionals.
Having charges dropped instead of being convicted can mean the difference between the future you envisioned and a far harder road to travel. Our main goal, and often the one we are able to achieve anywhere underage drinking is alleged, is to see the case to completion with no permanent criminal record.
Contact us for a comprehensive case evaluation from Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Lloyd Long today!