What to do upon initial contact with the Police.
First and foremost remain calm and be polite. Arguing with the police officer will only get you in more hot water and make it more difficult for your attorney to resolve the matter at a later date. Although being polite is important that does not mean that you should speak freely with the officer as anything you say can be held against you. While you should comply with requests to identify yourself you should not be talking about how much you had to drink or even if you had been drinking. Do not lie but don't go admitting to downing a few beers either. The officer may ask you to take some tests including a pre-breath test or PBT. When taking these tests be sure to note if you have anything in your mouth such a gum or a mint, this could affect the test. If you are asked to perform field sobriety test such as walking a line and counting each step, listen to the instructions very carefully and follow them exactly. Many failures of these tests occur because of failure to follow directions.
Contact an Attorney
It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after being cited for Under Age Drinking. A qualified criminal defense attorney can help you navigate your local Court System and may have at least a familiarity with the officer or police department which would enable him or her to intervene early on your behalf. Depending upon the Officer and Magisterial District Judge or Municipal Court Judge proper intervention by an attorney may assist in having the charges dropped in exchange for something such as performing community service or appearance before a Youth Aid Panel. Additionally a qualified criminal defense attorney will stay up to date with changes in the law and how they may affect you. For example recent Court Decisions have come out ,which may render Pre Breath Tests ( often the only test performed) inadmissible, thereby leaving the police with no evidence with which to prosecute you.
Hearing before a Magisterial District Judge
Appearance matters. Always dress appropriately for Court, This means no jeans, sneakers, flip flops or T-Shirts. Everyone else may appear in Court that way but if the Judge is on the fence about giving you a break respectful dress and demeanor can make a difference. Once at the Court check in with the staff and let your attorney do the rest of the talking. If you do not have an attorney you can approach the officer and ask him if he has any room to negotiate and if he be willing to drop the charges. The worst they can say is no. I recommend that my clients preform some sort of community service before the hearing. Coming in to Court with a letter from the local food pantry or senior center lauding your help can go a long way toward getting those charges dropped. You can also ask if your area has a "Diversionary Programs or Youth Aid Panels" participating in these programs can also help you avoid a conviction and license suspension.
If you are convicted
Remember you always have the right to a Summary Trial. An attorney knowledgeable with the facts of your case is best suited to assist you in making the decision in whether or not to try the case or work out an deal. If you are found guilty of Under Age Drinking or if you Plead Guilty you can ask the Court to delay the transmission of your conviction to Penn DOT for the license suspension for a period of time. If you are convicted in August and are going away to College in September with out a car the Court may agree to delay notice to Penn DOT until you leave for School. They may not agree but its worth a try. If you are convicted you do have a right to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas. Speak with your attorney as to whether it is worth appealing and how to do so if that is what you choose.
Every case is different
Every case is different. Even if your best friend was convicted for the same offense and he was sitting right next to you in the same car or at the same party does not mean that you don't have a defense available that he did not. Do not rely on the results of your friends case or upon the information contained in this legal guide in making a decision on how to act or proceed in your case. The information contained in this guide is only general information and is not intended to be advice as to how you should proceed in your specific case. The information in this guide is not intended and should not be used in place of obtaining legal advice from a qualified attorney in your area, nor is there any representation that the information contained herein is up to date. No attorney/client relationship has been formed with the publication of this guide and you are urged to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney in your location for advice on your case.