The summer season technically isn’t over but the academic school year is underway! Our law firm, as always, wants to provide information that is useful to its client’s, families, and even their children. One of the biggest issues that we handle for minors are criminal offenses involving false identifications (fake IDs), underage drinking, and illegal drug possession. It’s common knowledge that the legal drinking age is 21, but many parents don’t realize the legal effects that such a criminal charge can have on their son or daughter’s academic and professional life. In addition, an illegal drug charge can often present a warning flag to potential employers, who may use it to exclude a person from a summer or holiday break internship program or even a full time job. Considering the high cost of a college education, these relatively minor criminal charges can substantially damage that return on investment.
Fake IDs and Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, a person commits a summary offense when he or she carries a fake ID or uses it to obtain any type of alcoholic beverage. It’s important to understand that the mere possession of a fake ID is enough for the prosecution to establish guilt beyond a reasonable doubt with regards to this summary offense charge. A minor does not have to be in the act of using the fake ID to be charged or convicted of this crime under Section 6310.3 (Title 18) of PA’s Crimes Code. While a first offense is a summary offense, any subsequent violation is a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree, which is a much more serious criminal charge and conviction distinction.
In Pennsylvania, a person convicted of carrying a fake ID is subject to a fine of up to $500.00 and a mandatory minimum 90 day license suspension under Section 6310.4. It is a 90 day license suspension for a first offense and a one year suspension for a second offense. There is a 2 year license suspension for a 3rd offense.
Underage Drinking & Pennsylvania
Similar to carrying a fake ID, there is a mandatory minimum 90 day driver license suspension for any minor who attempts to purchase, consume, possess, or transports alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, liquor). Under Section 6308 (Title 18), a minor commits a summary offense and is subject to a maximum fine of $500.00 for a first offense and a $1,000.00 fine for every repeat offense.
There is a separate offense for misrepresenting one’s age to a server of alcohol or other alcoholic beverages under Section 6307 and like the other crimes pertaining to this area; it is a summary offense for a first time offender and a misdemeanor for all subsequent offenses. Under 6307, there is also a mandatory license suspension and a maximum fine of $500.00.
Consecutive Driver License Suspension, No Merging of Offenses & Adult Charges
It’s important to keep in mind that the driver license suspensions under Section 6307, 6308 (the purchase or consumption), and 6310.3 (fake ID), all involve license suspensions and there is no restriction against consecutive suspensions. This means that a person who is convicted of all 3 offenses could potentially lose their license for a maximum of 270 days. Since of all the criminal offense contain different elements, they would not merge for the purposes of sentencing. Even if these criminal charges did merge, PENNDOT’s ability to suspend a driver’s license is a non criminal sanction. Keep in mind that any adult who furnishes or sells alcohol knowingly to a minor commits a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree and a minimum fine of $1,000.00 for a first offense. There is however, no license suspension for this illegal vendor.
Summary Diversion Programs for Underage Drinking and Alcohol Offenses
For those charged with these types of crime in Pennsylvania, many counties, including Philadelphia, will offer some type of summary diversion program, which I discuss in my latest book, Bumps On Your Road to Success. This diversion program will allow a person to avoid a license suspension and any type of criminal conviction so it’s a very good result. While an expungement following the successful completion of this program is usually automatic, it is very important that you confirm this issue with your criminal defense lawyer! Never make an assumption with regards to an expungement as it is normally a separate motion to a court requesting that a person’s record be wiped clean.
Illegal Drug Possession & Driver License Suspension
In addition to underage drinking, illegal drug possession is also a common crime that we deal with for high school and college students. The most common offense is the illegal possession of marijuana. In addition to the criminal charge and a possible conviction for an ungraded misdemeanor, the young person faces a mandatory minimum 6 month license suspension for any drug conviction, even if it didn’t involve a vehicle or car. Please remember that if you are a minor (or even an adult) facing this charge, there is no Constitutional Right to a driver’s license and driving is a privilege in the Commonwealth, not a right. Again this topic is discussed in my latest book but please keep in mind that most district attorney offices will not offer the Summary Diversion Program for drug offense but are more likely to offer programs like ARD or AMP. Before accepting any type of program, however, a person should evaluate all possible defenses and especially pre-trial motions to Suppress Evidence. A Motion to Suppress Evidence is often the strongest defense tool in any type of illegal drug charge.