Q: I was at a party and some people were being quite loud and campus police were checking in and had eventually entered the home. They shut down what was going on and lined everyone up before exiting the home warning people not to flee out of the rear of the house. Checking people’s bags for alcohol in which they had to throw out if they did possess it and asking them for ID which they verbalized names over a body cam. Now, if no one was arrested could there still be future ramifications? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: For summary offenses, citations can be issued at the scene, or by mail. The police can also charge misdemeanors without physically arresting someone. They can take the information and mail a summons to the person. You will likely receive a citation in the mail and a hearing date. Do not plead guilty. Underage drinking under section 6308 of the PA Crimes Code is a summary offense, which if you are convicted of, will stay on your record for 5 years before you can pay to have it expunged. Additionally, it carries a driver’s license suspension which will come in the mail from PennDOT, weeks later. Many District Justices offer a first-time offender’s program which will allow you to avoid a conviction, but it is not always offered unfortunately. Make sure the address the police have is a good one. If you do not receive mail at the address you gave them, miss the hearing and are convicted, you are out of luck. Hire an attorney if you can.
Q: My son pleaded guilty to underage drinking on a college campus in Ohio Labor Day weekend of 2017. He did the diversion program to completion and submitted paperwork for expungement. It is currently dismissed and should be complete by June 1. Unfortunately, he ran into trouble visiting friends in PA this spring and was cited by a campus police officer for underage drinking. Does he have to disclose his expungement in OH to a judge if asked? Will it be considered a second offense if it happened in a different state? Or considered first offense in PA? the officer told me he would only be asking the judge for community service time at the time of his hearing. Should we ask for a continuance until after the Ohio expungement is finalized before having the hearing in PA with the campus officer? (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: If the prior case happened in PA, the police on the new case would be able to see he had a prior citation for a 6308 offense. Therefore, he would not be eligible for a second chance at a diversion. You would think that police could not find the first case, because it was expunged, but District Attorneys seems to be able to access cases that are expunged. Whether the PA police will be able to see the prior Ohio citation, I am not certain. Your son has no obligation to offer the fact that he does have a prior. Only if he is sworn in to testify and is under oath and asked by the District Justice here in PA, would have to tell the truth. At his new hearing, let the officer tell you if a diversionary program is on the table, and if it is, jump on it.
Q: Last night I received an underage at a party with some friends. I’m 20 and have never been in trouble before. I’ve never even gotten a traffic citation. I recently was kicked out of my house and live in emergency housing at my school with no car and no income. I know I will need a lawyer to plead not guilty but also know I cannot afford one. What are my best options? (Millvale, PA)
A: There is a first-time offenders program offered by most District Justices which allows this charge to be withdrawn if the minor completes a program. I doubt if you can obtain a Public Defender as you charged with a summary offense. You may also have a defense to this if there are no witnesses who saw you consume, possess, transport or purchase alcohol. However, you will have a better chance if you have an attorney present that defense. Be aware that if you plead guilty to this, your driver’s license will be suspended.
Q: My 17-year-old was at a house where there was alcohol. There was an altercation between others. She was not involved and asked a friend to take her home because she was scared. Police stopped them did not test them. The cop did ask her how much were you drinking and she said a little. She was drinking Red Bull and thought that was illegal. Will she still be charged? (Mt. Lebanon)
A: Attorneys defend these cases all the time. Police break up an underage drinking party and don’t have evidence of alcohol consumption for some of the kids because they have no beverage container in their possession, do not appear to be intoxicated nor smell like alcohol. This normally does not prevent the police from citing everybody at the party. The statute 18 Pa. C.S.A Sec. 6308, requires proof that a minor consumed, transported, possessed or purchased alcohol. If the only evidence against your daughter is that she said she was drinking, the officer can testify to that and it would be up to the District Justice to believe your daughter’s story about her believing Red Bull was illegal. I find her story questionable but I would have to hear it in person. Bear in mind that many District Justice offices offer a program for minors in this situation whereby the charges will be withdrawn if the minor completes an alcohol class. I would consult with a lawyer as if your daughter is convicted, she will have a record for five years and will lose her driver’s license for 90 days.
Q: My 17-year-old daughter was cited tonight for underage drinking at a house party. The cop said she wasn’t drinking. She will lose her license and be fined. Do we have recourse?
A: I believe the statute (6308) applies to possessing, transporting or consuming. If she did any one of those she can be cited. Many times, officers cite all the kids at a party, even when they don’t have evidence against all of them. If the officer will state the she didn’t drink, possess or transport the alcoholic beverages, he may withdraw the citation. She may have a defense if he does not. Whatever you do, do not have her plead guilty. As you already know, being found guilty of this summary non-traffic offense will result in a driver’s license suspension and will remain on her record for five years before she can expunge it. If she has no defense, there is a program (if offered) for first time underage drinking offenders that will involve the charges being withdraw. (Munhall, PA)
Q: I got papers in the mail saying I am being charged with 6308 Purchase, Consumption, Transportation of Alcoholic Beverage By A Minor. It’s says it is a fine and a court date. If I plead guilty and pay the fine, do I have to go to the court date and will I have anything else other then the fine?
A: Don’t check the guilty box. Plead not guilty and send the required funds in. Many magistrates offer a first time offenders program whereby you attend a class and get the charge dismissed. If this is not a certainty, hire a lawyer to push the issue. If you plead guilty on your own, you will receive a summary conviction on your record for 5 years and a 6 months driver’s license suspension.
Q: I caught a 2nd underage drinking charge. I didn’t face jail time the first time, but I imagine the judge isn’t gonna be happy to see me again. Is there any way I could get my lawyer to work out a suspended sentence for me, or some other way to avoid jail time?
A: If the first section 6308 summary didn’t get you a 90 day license suspension because you somehow avoided a conviction for being a first time offender, this new 6308 will carry a one year driver’s license suspension. I would hire an attorney. An attorney may be able to advise you on how to avoid a conviction, if possible.
Q: I arrived at a college and parked my car, drank all night at a party and returned to my car to sleep because I wasn’t allowed in my friend’s dorm because it was too late to check in. I was woken up while my seat was reclined and I was dead asleep. The only reason my keys were in the ignition is because it was too cold and I needed the heat. The car was never running at any point. I was never breathalyzed and was taken straight to the hospital for blood tests. Is there a way to get this reduced to just an underage? I was never driving my car! (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: There is much case law on this subject and the issue boils down to whether you were in physical control of the car. In a lot of these cases, the car is running and the DA argues that the passed out driver could have awakened from their stupor, bumped the shifter, and set the car in gear thus creating a dangerous situation. The fact that the car was not running in your case is very helpful to you. Unless the police state to the contrary about the car running, you may have a good defense for a trial if the DA will not bargain. You need to review all of the police reports with a criminal defense attorney and have representation at the Preliminary Hearing. Have the testimony recorded. You may be ARD eligible if your defense is weak or you cannot stomach a trial.
Q: Is there a case in this situation with underage drinking and possession? My friends received an underage and possession. A friend of mine had five of her friends having out in her dorm room (all girls). They were just watching television and drinking a little bit. A guy from the same hall walked in lit his bowl of weed and said he will go back to his room and get a fan. When he left the cops went to the girl’s dorm and knocked. A girl (non-resident) opened the door and the cop forced the door open all the way. He then asked if he is allowed to search the place but the resident said he needs to get a warrant. The cop then waited in the doorway for 4 hours, would not let any of the girls leave the dorm, and finally got the warrant. The girls told the police officer to leave but he said he won’t. The warrant was for marijuana and a alcohol.
A: I would suggest that everyone get a lawyer. No doubt the cops are angry at making them get a warrant but they should know about the warrant requirement. Possession of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor and the Possession, Consumption and Transportation of Alcohol is a summary offense. Both can result in a criminal record and each carries a driver’s license suspension. Each lawyer can advise each defendant on the law of possession. Each lawyer can examine the warrant and determine if it is legal. There may be a defense. If there is no defense, all is not lost. There are options for first time offenders, and the lawyer can advise you which ones are feasible under the circumstances.
Q: What is the best course of action I could take to either have dismissed, or reduce the penalties of public intoxication charges? I am a 20 year old student at Penn State. I was riding the bus home when the driver made me get off. I was visibly intoxicated but I was not disrupting the peace or being disorderly. I’m assuming she called the cops before kicking me off the bus because the second I stepped off, the police were waiting. They breathalyzed me and I blew over a .20. They had me admitted to the hospital despite the fact that I requested not to be treated because I was now within walking distance of my apartment. They told me I would receive a citation in the mail for underage drinking, but when the citation came, there were actually two: one for the underage and another for public intoxication. I feel that the public intoxication charge was not justified. Is there anything I can do to help my situation?
A: Get a lawyer. It sounds like the public intoxication is justified as you were in public. But, often times in PA, District Justices offer a first time offenders program, or classes, for first time offenders. This way you will avoid having a conviction and a driver’s licenses suspension. There is a driver’s license suspension that PenDOT will issue if you are convicted of the underage. The lawyer will know how to get you out of this with minimal damage. There may be options to pleading guilty and I wouldn’t try this on your own.