Pennsylvania Increases Fines for Underage Drinking Crimes
January 29, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- As everyone knows, many underage U.S. college students drink alcohol. At Penn State and other Pennsylvania colleges and universities, the situation is no different. In fact, the Centre Daily Times reports that in 2011 a shocking 657 college students at Penn State were seen medically for "alcohol overdoses" with an average blood-alcohol content at "an all-time high" of a frightening 0.287.
The University of Pennsylvania provides information about the consequences of high BACs. BAC measures the amount of alcohol in a person's blood at a given moment. Information on the Penn website puts a BAC of 0.287 into perspective:
- Judgment is affected at 0.06.
- Every U.S. state considers people legally drunk at 0.08.
- Reactions and muscle control are affected negatively at 0.10.
- Most drinkers throw up at 0.12.
- Substantial impact on balance, walking and talking occurs at 0.15.
- People start to black out and suffer from memory loss at 0.20.
- Consciousness can be lost at 0.30.
- Death can occur at 0.40.
The bottom line is that our kids are in danger from their drinking behaviors and state law reflects this by making underage drinking illegal. In Pennsylvania, it is a crime for anyone under 21 to try to buy; purchase; possess; or knowingly transport liquor.
In an attempt to deter kids from drinking, the legislature in 2012 increased fines for underage drinking violations, and the Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill into law.
The new law became effective December 24, 2012, and now anyone convicted of underage drinking can be fined up to $500 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses. Previously, the maximum fine for second and subsequent violations was $500.
Pros and cons
Supporters of the law hope higher fines will deter student drinking behavior, including underage drunk driving, and soften the financial burden on taxpayers who pay the high cost for law enforcement needed to combat underage drinking and crimes related to it, especially in college and university towns.
Some people question whether the increased fines will make any difference when alcohol is such an accepted behavior among many young people, when parents could be the actual ones absorbing the cost and when kids are affluent enough that it will not cause financial pain. A judge interviewed by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said he would prefer to steer kids into alcohol education classes or require community service.
An underage drinking offense in Pennsylvania also brings an automatic driver's license suspension, with the length of the suspension varying with the number of previous offenses.
High school and college students need to be careful about drinking for their health and because a criminal record has the potential to hurt their future school admissions, student loan eligibility and employment options.
Anyone accused of underage drinking or a related crime in Pennsylvania, or the parent of such a defendant, should consult with a criminal defense attorney experienced in representing high school and college students in such matters. A knowledgeable lawyer will understand the options for defending the case, including whether the student is a good candidate for Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or ARD, a pretrial diversionary program that emphasizes rehabilitation and can prevent a criminal record.