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What New Fines for Underage Drinking Can Mean to You

Getting stopped for driving under the influence (DUI) is the last thing young partygoers think about when heading out for an evening of friends and fun. But it can weigh heavily on their minds when they are hit with the new fines for underage drinking that went into effect on Christmas Eve 2012.

The increase in fines is aimed predominantly at college students who comprise the majority of underage drinkers. Kutztown, home of Kutztown University, for example, dealt with 116 liquor law violations, 57 drunkenness complaints and 115 disorderly conduct cases in 2011, according to Pennsylvania crime statistics. And the average blood-alcohol content in 2011 for students requiring medical attention hit an all-time high of 0.287.

The new law raises the maximum fine for a first offense from $300 to $500 and doubles the maximum fine for a second offense from $500 to $1,000. Legislators hope to deter underage drinking with the new fines. But many experts believe it will not have the intended effect unless the fines are raised even higher.

Many young drivers have never dealt with the criminal justice system and do not know their rights. A significant number of drivers plead guilty to other criminal charges and pay the hefty fines in exchange for keeping their driving privileges. But they may act too hastily if they are not represented by experienced counsel.

If you or your child is faced with an underage drinking charge, a capable lawyer can guide you through the legal process and can fight your conviction or appeal your license suspension if the facts warrant it.

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