When a kid gets a yellow ticket for Underage Drinking, Minors in Possession of Alcohol, or Fake ID (these are all part of the same law), he or she has two choices: Plead “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”. To help the reader understand the ramifications of their decision, I will be blunt: pleading “guilty” is just stupid.
It makes no sense and here is why: When a kid gets his ticket and signs the back of his ticket on the “guilty” line and sends in his money, he or she has
- Created a criminal conviction that will be asked about by schools and employers at some time in the future
- Caused his or her Pa. driving privileges to be suspended.
Why just let this happen when the story can end in some many other, and better, ways? As an underage drinking lawyer for twenty years, I am always aghast at the client that comes in with a notice from PennDot that says his or her license is going to be suspended due to an underage drinking conviction. I usually ask them what happened and the great majority of the time I am told that it is because they plead guilty, paid the ticket, while having no idea their license was going to get suspended. I feel bad for them. It could have been different. A underage drinking ticket should be responded to with a “not guilty” plea. A lawyer should be obtained and the lawyer and client will attend the hearing in the District Court that has jurisdiction where a variety of things could happen, including:
- The ticket could be dismissed for the officer not showing up;
- The ticket could be dismissed because the officer can’t prove their case;
- The parties can enter into a “plea bargain” which results in no conviction for underage drinking;
- The defendant could be offered participation in a “diversionary program” in which the defendant can do community service, alcohol awareness classes, safe driving classes, or some combination of the three.
Some programs allow you to complete the program and then come back to court and have the charges dismissed. These programs have been made available in Courts around Villanova University, West Chester University, Drexel University, and the professional sports stadiums in Philadelphia such a Citizens Bank Park and Lincoln Financial Field, where underage drinking is prevalent and enforcement targeted. The attorney you select should also be a Pa Drivers License Lawyer so the client can be advised which of these programs will NOT suspend your license upon completion. One of the above things will happen a lot more that you think so do not forfeit your right to challenge the ticket and save your driving privileges as well as preserving what may be your spotless criminal record. Don’t plead “guilty” to underage drinking.