What happens if I get caught underage drinking in Pennsylvania?

You probably know that the legal drinking age in Pennsylvania is 21. But peer pressure as a teenager is also something serious. If you’re at the homecoming after-party, and everyone on the soccer team is doing keg stands, you might be tempted to join in.

Can a few beers in high school really matter that much? What consequences could you face?


You might be surprised to learn that in Pennsylvania, the penalties are pretty serious. You could face steep fines and have your driver’s license suspended:

  • First offense: up to $500 and automatic license suspension for 90 days
  • Second offense: up to $1,000 and license suspension for a year
  • Third offense: up to $1,000 and license suspension for two years

Penalties are more stringent if your underage drinking is combined with another offense, such as driving under the influence (DUI).

Will the offense go on my criminal record?

Yes. In Pennsylvania, an underage drinking charge goes on your permanent criminal record and will appear anytime anyone does a background check on you. This record can impact your chances of getting into college or getting a job.

However, it’s important to know that you can get your underage drinking conviction “expunged”—cleared—from your record. Expungement effectively wipes the slate clean, making it as though the offense never happened.

With many offenses, the law requires you to wait five years before you can get it expunged. However, with underage drinking there is no such time restriction. To expunge your underage drinking charge:

  • You must have paid all fines connected to the charge.
  • You must have completed the period of driver’s license suspension.
  • You must file a petition for expungement in the same court where you were convicted.

Getting caught underage drinking can lead to a lot of trouble down the line. If you’re charged with underage drinking, it’s important to have an experienced attorney on your side—someone who can advocate to get your penalties reduced or get the charges dropped altogether.

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Theodore H. Swan, Jr., Attorney at Law
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