Pennsylvania laws that identify crimes and penalties related to underage drinking are mainly found in the Liquor Code, the Crimes Code, and the Vehicle Code. Below are summaries of the various offenses for minors and adults related to underage drinking. The penalties referenced below apply to adults age 18 and older, except as otherwise indicated; minors under 18 would also face penalties for such crimes, but those penalties are adjudicated under the Juvenile Code.
The Liquor Code
The Liquor Code, specifically sections 493 and 494 of Title 47, make it illegal for anyone in Pennsylvania to sell, supply or give alcohol to a minor. Under the Liquor Code, violators can be charged with a misdemeanor and fined $100 to $500 per incident for furnishing alcohol to minors. Failure to pay an imposed fine can lead to imprisonment.
The Crimes Code
The Crimes Code, Title 18, includes a number of sections prohibiting underage drinking and the facilitation of underage drinking.
Section 6301 makes it illegal for anyone 18 years of age or older to entice, coerce, or aid a minor in the commission of a crime. This means anyone over 18 who facilitates underage drinking may be committing a misdemeanor of the first degree and may face penalties including a fine of up to $10,000 and up to five years imprisonment.
Section 6307 makes it illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to misrepresent his or her age in an attempt to obtain alcohol. Violation of this law is a summary offense and can result in fines up to $300 for a first conviction and a misdemeanor of the third degree with fines up to $500 for subsequent convictions. In addition, a conviction under this section will result in license suspension in accordance with Section 6310.4, discussed below.
Section 6308 makes it illegal for anyone under 21 years of age to purchase, attempt to purchase, consume, possess, or knowingly and intentionally transport alcohol. Violation of this law is a summary offense and can result in fines up to $500 for a first conviction and up to $1,000 for subsequent convictions. In addition, a conviction under this section will result in license suspension in accordance with Section 6310.4, discussed below.
A limited exception to this law is provided for under Pennsylvania’s Medical Amnesty Law. If an underage person calls for help on behalf of another person believed to be at risk due to alcohol consumption – and if that minor provides his or her name and stays with the person at risk until help arrives – the caller is immune from prosecution for consumption or possession of alcohol.
Section 6309 prohibits anyone from knowingly and falsely representing that someone under 21 years of age is older than that in an effort to encourage a retailer to sell alcohol to the minor. Violation of this law is a misdemeanor of the third degree, and penalties for adults include imprisonment up to one year and fines between $300 and $2,500.
Section 6310 prohibits anyone from hiring or requesting or inducing a minor to try to buy alcohol. Violation of this law is a misdemeanor of the third degree, and penalties can include imprisonment up to one year and fines between $300 and $2,500.
Section 6310.1 prohibits anyone from knowingly and intentionally selling or furnishing alcohol to minors. Violation of this law is a misdemeanor of the third degree and penalties can include imprisonment up to one year and a fine of $1,000 for the first violation and $2,500 for any subsequent violation.
Section 6310.2 prohibits anyone in Pennsylvania from making, altering, or selling false identification cards. Violation of this law is a misdemeanor of the second degree, and penalties for adults can include imprisonment up to two years and fines between $1,000 and $5,000 for a first offense. Fines for subsequent adult convictions are a minimum of $2,500. For juveniles, the fines are $500 for a first adjudication and $1,000 for subsequent adjudications.
Section 6310.3 prohibits anyone in Pennsylvania under 21 years of age from carrying a fake ID to obtain alcohol. Violation of this law is a summary offense for the first conviction and a misdemeanor of the third degree for subsequent convictions. Penalties for 18- to 20-year-olds for a first conviction can be imprisonment up to 90 days and fines up to $300. Penalties for subsequent convictions can be imprisonment up to one year and fines between $500 and $2,500. For juveniles, fines up to $500 may be imposed. In addition, a conviction under this section will result in license suspension in accordance with Section 6310.4, discussed below.
Section 6310.4 requires that anyone convicted of misrepresenting their age to obtain alcohol; possessing, purchasing, consuming or transporting alcohol; or carrying a fake ID will have driving privileges suspended for 90 days for a first offense and one year for a second offense. A third conviction will result in loss of driving privileges for two years. If the person is under 16 years of age when convicted of any of the aforementioned crimes, the suspension of driving privileges will begin on the person’s 16th birthday.
The Vehicle Code
The Vehicle Code, Title 75, prohibits anyone from driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol, and it includes special provisions for anyone under 21 who drives under the influence.
Section 3802 prohibits individuals from operating a vehicle with a sufficient amount of alcohol in their blood – more than 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC) for adults – so that it has rendered them incapable of safely of driving. Penalties includes mandatory jail time, fines, and a license suspension.
Section 3809 prohibits the driver or occupant of a vehicle from possessing an open alcohol container or consuming alcohol in the vehicle. A violation of this offense is a summary punishable by a $25 fine.
Section 3718 prohibits a minor from driving with any alcohol in their system. A conviction under this section is a summary offense punishable with a fine of $100 and a three-month license suspension.
Section 3735 punishes an individual who, as a result of DUI, causes the death of another person. A conviction under this section is a felony of the second degree punishable with a mandatory three years (for each victim) up to 10 years imprisonment with a fine up to $25,000 and license suspension of three years.
Section 3735.1 punishes an individual who, as a result of DUI, causes another person serious bodily injury. A conviction under this section is a felony of the second degree punishable with imprisonment up to 10 years, a fine up to $25,000, and a one-year license suspension.
2 in 5 PA parents find it acceptable for kids to drink alcohol on "special occasions"
About the same percentage of parents (37%) believe it’s natural for children to experiment with alcohol and trust their child to experiment responsibly.
Tip: To help your child avoid the risks associated with alcohol, it’s important to learn the facts. It’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol – regardless of the situation. And children who begin drinking at an early age can be four times more likely to have problems with alcohol later in life.
The more you learn about underage drinking, the more confident you will feel talking to your child about it.