Close up of opened beer can on a black background.

Did you know that you do not have to actually consume alcohol to be charged with an underage drinking offense in Pennsylvania? By even succumbing to peer pressure and driving a friend to a party with a six-pack in tow, your child is subject to criminal charges. Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to do any of the following:


  • Attempt to purchase;
  • Purchase;
  • Consume;
  • Possess; or Knowingly transport alcoholic beverages.

A conviction pursuant to Pennsylvania’s underage drinking statute, even if unrelated to a driving offense, can carry serious consequences for you child’s future, including his or her college, financial aid, and job prospects.

Exceptions to Prosecution for Underage Drinking

In order to promote safety, especially in the face of alcohol poisoning, which is potentially fatal, there is an exception to prosecution under Pennsylvania’s underage drinking statute if the police (or campus security) discovered the violation under the following conditions:

  • The underage person called 911 with a reasonable belief that another was in need of serious, immediate medical help;
  • The underage person reasonably believed he or she was the first person to call 911;
  • He or she gave the police (or campus security) his or her real name; and
  • He or she remained with the person in need of medical attention until such arrived.

Accordingly, if the police discovered the violation only because your child called 911 (or campus police) in service to another in need, he or she cannot be prosecuted for underage possession of alcohol. Your child should not be prosecuted for his bravery, and if you believe this exception applies to his case, contact a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney immediately.

Consequences and Alternative Prosecution for Underage Drinking Offenses

If your child is convicted of an underage drinking charge and he is over the age of 18, he will be charged as an adult and not a juvenile. This means that certain benefits available to those under the age of 18 in juvenile court will not apply to him. Consequences for those charged with underage possession who are under the age of 18, include, but are not limited to, a delay in their ability to get a license or learner’s permit, possible college rejections, inability to qualify for certain federal grants and financial aid, and a criminal record. However, with a good criminal defense lawyer, you may be able to invoke a provision in Pennsylvania’s underage possession of alcohol law that allows a judge to order community service and alternative forms of punishment in order to promote the goal of rehabilitation. Further, an attorney may be able to get the conviction expunged from your child’s record upon competition of an alternative program.

Contact Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney Brian Zeiger

If you believe your child qualifies for an exception under the law or may be entitled to alternative sentencing, contact Attorney Brian Zeiger. He can work to review the specific facts of your child’s case and help to ensure it does not change the course of his life. Contact him today at 215-546-0340 or online for a confidential, no-risk consultation.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.