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Published on Dec 10, 2012 by Edgar Snyder

Pennsylvania's New Underage Drinking Law: The Costs Add Up

underage drinkers arrested

Christmas Day is approaching quickly, and this year we're not just expecting Santa and presents. Beginning December 25, people caught underage drinking will face larger fines.

What you need to know about the law:

If you have teens in your household or are a minor yourself, know that the fine for first-time offenders will increase from $300 to $500, while the fine for subsequent offenses will increase from $500 to $1,000.

State lawmakers are hoping the increase in fines will encourage people under the age of 21 to avoid drinking alcohol – especially if they're the ones that will have to foot the bill.

The reality is that underage drinking continues to be a problem across our state. There are dozens of reasons why young people choose to drink, and a fine increase alone may not deter every underage person from consuming alcohol.

However, an underage drinking conviction is just the beginning. Many aren't aware of the additional penalties, fines, and even jail time that you may face in exchange for a ‘fun night,' including:

  • Public drunkenness – There's a $300 fine for public drunkenness for first and repeat offenders, including underage drinkers.
  • DUI – Penalties for driving under the influence depend on your age and how many times you've received a DUI conviction. All drivers under 21 who commit a DUI will lose their driver's license for at least 6 months, face additional fines of $500-10,000 (depending on previous offenses), spend 2 days (first offense) to a year in jail (fourth or subsequent offense), and may be required to participate in a drug and alcohol treatment program and complete a set number of hours of community service.
  • Providing alcohol to a minor – A person who provides alcohol to a minor commits a third degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of $1,000-2,500+, depending on previous offenses. Say you throw a party for 30 minors and the police show up. You could face a fine of at least $30,000 for your first offense, or $75,000+ if you've been charged with providing alcohol to minors previously. This law applies to you whether you're a minor or an adult.
  • Social host liability – The term sounds complex, but it really boils down to one thing. If you serve alcohol to someone who is underage, and that person is injured or hurts or kills someone else because they were intoxicated, you can be held liable.

Add some of those fines together, and consider the jail time and driver's license suspension. It begins to sound pretty serious, doesn't it? The bottom line is that underage drinking can cost you in several ways, and it can lead to tragedies that affect many people.

Want to Help Prevent Underage Drinking and Drunk Driving Accidents?

Did you know that people ages 12-20 (all underage) drink 11% of all of the alcohol consumed in the United States? Over a quarter of the total number of drunk driving deaths in Pennsylvania last year were minors ages 16-20. At our law firm, we want to help you and your loved ones to avoid becoming an accident statistic.

Here are a few ways to get involved with our efforts:

  • Promise to stay safe and sober this holiday season with our Facebook Safe & Sober Holiday Pledge – you could win an iPad3!
  • Check out our Safe and Sober Party Hosting Kit, featuring a list of local cab companies, tips on being a responsible social host, mocktail recipes, and more.
  • Bring the Edgar Snyder Save A Life Tour to your school. Preview this hard-hitting program that shows high school students the reality of what can happen to those who drink and drive.
  • Know a high school senior? Encourage them to enter the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to Be Heard" Scholarship Contest. Western Pennsylvania high school seniors are invited to submit proposals that discourage underage drinking, drinking and driving, or texting while driving.

Please share this blog with family and friends to help them be aware of the new law, and to encourage everyone to stay safe and sober this holiday season and into the New Year.

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