Underage drinking is a big problem across the United States, especially on college campuses and in towns near universities. State lawmakers are hoping to reduce the number of underage drinkers beginning Christmas Day.
On December 25, 2012, the state of Pennsylvania will increase the penalties for minors caught drinking.
Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill into law in November. The penalty for first-time offenders will increase from $300 to $500, while the penalty for subsequent offenses will increase from $500 to $1,000.
Underage drinkers also may face a $300 fine for public drunkenness for first and repeat offenses.
In addition to hefty fines, minors caught drinking underage also will lose their driver's license, and judges may have the ability to require offenders to participate in substance abuse programs or participate in community service. Underage drinkers also face criminal penalties if they are convicted of drunk driving or providing alcohol to a person under 21 (called social host liability), if that person injures or kills someone while driving under the influence.
State officials hope the increased fines will help deter people under 21 from drinking alcohol. In 2011 alone, there were 13,959 convictions for underage drinking-related offenses in Pennsylvania.