Officers came to a college party and questioned a few people about their age, they only breathalyzed a few people including me and some of my friends. They did not check IDs and almost half of the party lied to the officers about being over 21. I got a citation in the mail for underage drinking and now I have to plead guilty or not guilty. I know I am guilty of drinking at a party and I admitted it to the officer that I am 18 and I had a few drinks (which was at our apartments so we weren't driving anywhere). All of my friends are pleading not guilty to try and lessen the charges of the suspension of license and the fines. Should I do the same even though I know I am guilty, or should I plead guilty and just accept the suspension of my license and the court fines?
Criminal Defense Attorney
A few weeks ago, a Pennsylvania appellate court reiterated that breath test results are not admissible at Underage Drinking hearings IF the proper objection is raised. If you do not object, the evidence is admissible. Additional legal arguments can possibly be made in your case to have evidence suppressed, such as a challenge to your detention by police, suppression of your statement, and a possible sufficiency of the evidence charge. It may also be possible to negotiate a resolution with the officer to avoid the license suspension. The suspension for a first offense is 90 days, but the suspension increases to 1 year for a 2nd offense and 2 years for every subsequent offense, and you are not eligible for an Occupational Limited License for a 2nd or subsequent offense. As you are only 18, you have 3 more years in which you could receive another Underage offense, so I try to avoid the suspension now out of fear that you could be charged again.
I recommend that you contact a local defense attorney to discuss your case in more detail. A local lawyer would be able to review the facts of your case in more detail, discuss defense strategies, and also discuss the tendencies of the officer and judge.
Jason S. Dunkle, Esquire
215 East Beaver Avenue
State College, PA 16801
3 lawyers agree
DUI / DWI Attorney
There may be a pre-adjudication program available to prevent the conviction from occurring. Contact the Magisterial District Court for information.
Even if it is not available, please understand that changing the charge from Underage Drinking to Disorderly Conduct is not a reduction in charges. Instead, it puts you in a worse position. Underage Drinking convictions can be expunged after you reach the age of 21. A Disorderly Conduct conviction cannot be expunged for 5 years. Since you are 18 now, that is a 2 year difference. During those 2 years between the ages of 21 and 23, you will be looking for a post-college job or seeking admission into a Masters, Law, or Medical School program.
With regard to the suspension... If this is your first offense, you can apply for an Occupational Limited License to get to and from school, work, etc. Simply Google "DL-15" to obtain the appropriate petition.
Having an experienced criminal defense attorney can be helpful.
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Criminal Defense Attorney
The collateral offense of having your license suspended is severe for many people your age. Often times there are defenses. Consulting with an attorney regarding the specifics of your case would certainly be beneficial. I would advise you to do that.
Michael L. Doyle