Philadelphia Underage DUI Defense Attorney
In Pennsylvania the legal age to consume alcohol is 21 just like the rest of the country. The legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content is .08%, again just like the rest of the United States. However, if you are under the age of 21 and are caught drinking and driving you should know that Pennsylvania has a zero tolerance law for those under 21. If you are under the legal drinking age and are caught driving drunk (Title 75, Section 3802) or driving buzzed there are very severe legal and administrative penalties you will face. If you have been caught drinking and driving in the Philadelphia, Allentown or South Jersey areas you should consult with an experienced Philadelphia Underage DUI Defense Attorney as soon as possible. Our criminal defense law firm has more than a decade of experience handling juvenile criminal & DUI cases in Eastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey.
Legal Consequences & Zero Tolerance Laws In PA & NJ
In Pennsylvania anyone under the age of 21 who is arrested driving with a BAC at or above .02% will be charged with a DUI (drunk driving). There is no more evidence needed to charge an underage driver with a DUI in Pennsylvania if their BAC registers at or exceeds .02%. In New Jersey driving with a BAC level of .01 or higher can result in a minor being arrested for DWI.
Pennsylvania’s Zero Tolerance Law carries serious consequences for those under 21 who are convicted of driving with any amount of alcohol in their blood. For example, those under 21 who are convicted of driving under the influence with a .02 blood alcohol content, or greater, face severe penalties, including a 12-to 18-month license suspension, 48 hours to six months in jail, and fines from $500 to $5,000.
Violating New Jersey’s Zero Tolerance can result in loss of driving privileges of up to 90 days, community service and enrolling in, and completing, an alcohol and safety education program.
The Pennsylvania Underage Drinking Law (Prior to April 2019)
Prior to April 2019, any person under the age of 21 convicted of underage drinking or false identification faced a mandatory 90 day license suspension for a first offense; a 1 year license suspension for a second year offense, and a 2 year license suspension for a third offense. In addition to this license suspension came the stigma of criminal record for a summary offense and fine of up to $500.00.
This license suspension applies even if you weren’t driving. A person is subject to this penalty if they are found purchasing, consuming, possessing or transporting alcohol. In addition to these mandatory minimum penalties the Court may also require an evaluation to determine the extent of a person’s involvement with alcohol and it may require the completion of an alcohol education program, intervention, or counseling.
If you do not have a driver’s license you will be ineligible to obtain a learner’s permit for 90 days. If you are under the age of 16 your suspension will begin on your 16th birthday. Aside from criminal penalties PennDOT will require a restoration fee and your car insurance company may subject you or your parents to higher premiums. Additional costs and legal expenses could come from underage drinking.
If you are a parent I also encourage you NOT to host any event involving underage drinking. Read my article on social host liability for more information on this topic
Pennsylvania New Underage Drinking License Suspension & Drug Law (April 2019)
This all changed in April 2019, when Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill which eliminated and repealed the mandatory license suspension associated with underage drinking under 18 Pa.C.S.A Section 6308 and Possession of a False Identification Card (Fake ID) under 18 Pa.C.S.A Section 6310.3.
This change to Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code also eliminates the mandatory license suspension for the illegal possession of drugs (misdemeanor charge) and possession with intent to deliver illegal drugs or narcotics (PWID)(felony offense). I have written previous articles on this topic which I encourage you to read.
Obviously, I’m not an advocate of any person illegal consuming drugs or alcohol but the mandatory license suspension applied even if the offense didn’t involve a motor vehicle. It often represented a serious financial hardship to many families as it often prevented people from keeping good paying jobs to support families.
If you are charge with underage drinking or any drug related charge in Pennsylvania, its very important that you discuss your case and your option with your lawyer. While the new law any not assist you right now, there are still a number of options available to you. Check out my blog and my free download section for more great information on criminal defense topics
It’s very important to understand that Driving While Intoxicated and Underage Person Operating a Motor Vehicle After Consuming Alcohol are separate offenses in New Jersey. If a minor is convicted of DWI and underage drinking, they face penalties under both statutes. Driving after consuming alcohol is not necessarily drunk driving. In New Jersey, if an underage driver’s BAC is .01 or more, but less than .08, then license suspension is 30-90 days, plus 15-30 days of community service and participation in a program of alcohol education and highway safety. If the BAC is .08 or more, then the underage person is subject to the normal DWI penalties under 39:4-50, plus the penalties under 39:4-50.14.
N.J. Stat. § 39:4-50.14. Penalties for underage person operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol.
Any person under the legal age to purchase alcoholic beverages who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.01% or more, but less than 0.08%, by weight of alcohol in his blood, shall forfeit his right to operate a motor vehicle over the highways of this State or shall be prohibited from obtaining a license to operate a motor vehicle in this State for a period of not less than 30 or more than 90 days beginning on the date he becomes eligible to obtain a license or on the day of conviction, whichever is later, and shall perform community service for a period of not less than 15 or more than 30 days.
Remember that tolerance and impairment are not the same. Even a minor doesn’t feel drunk, they are more than likely over the legal limit for operating a motor vehicle after drinking. A higher alcohol tolerance, however, won’t change your BAC level. It will just alter the way you react. Basically, you won’t feel that drunk but your BAC could likely be over the legal limit. Tolerance and BAC are mutually exclusive!
How Your Brain Reacts to Alcohol
If a person’s body and brain are regularly subjected to alcohol, a change develops within the body to enable a person to adapt better to the presence of alcohol. The average person metabolizes a drink (.6 ounces of ethanol) within ninety minutes after consumption. A person, however, who consumes alcohol on a more regular basis will break down that alcohol more rapidly than a person who rarely drinks. The chemistry within a body’s liver produces enzymes that break down the alcohol.
Your Liver & Intoxication
More frequent consumption of alcohol forces the liver to become more efficient in breaking down the alcohol and therefore drinkers need to drink more alcohol in order to get this same intoxication effect (you need more to actually feel drunk). This behavior doesn’t change a person’s BAC level. In addition to the liver, the brain develops tolerance to alcohol when it is regularly exposed to it. More of a tolerance leads to less for a dulling effect on alertness but again this doesn’t affect one’s BAC level.
So what does affect your BAC level?
- The number of drinks
- How fast you drink
- Gender – females have less water, more fat and therefore a higher BAC on avg
- Bodyweight – more weight = more water in your body = alcohol dilution
- Food – eating slows down alcohol absorption
- Body Type – More body fat = a higher BAC
- Hydration = less hydrated = BAC rises quicker and longer
- Mixers – water and juice slows alcohol absorption while carbonation (soda) speeds it up)
Contact A Juvenile DUI Defense Attorney In NJ & PA
If you, or your child has been charged with driving under the influence and they are under the age of 21 please contact The Law Office of Alfonso Gambone. I have offices in NJ & PA for your convenience. With my many years experience practicing juvenile criminal and DUI charges, both as a JAG Officer and now as a defense attorney, I have the experience and resources to help you obtain the most favorable outcome possible. Let me protect your rights, future & reputation.
I proudly serve all of Eastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey including the Philadelphia, Moorestown, Cherry Hill, Bethlehem, Easton, Atlantic City, Norristown, Media, Chester, Doylestown, Haddonfield, Woodbury and Maple Shade areas.