I am a PA DUI and Criminal Lawyer. As part and parcel of this area of my practice I have seen the number of young people cited for Underage Drinking steadily rise each and every year. A great many of my cases take me to the “Main Line”, an area starting at Bala Cynwyd, Pa and stretching through the towns of Narberth, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, Villanova, Radnor Twp, Wayne, Devon, and Paoli. These are towns along the stretch of road that is Lancaster Avenue where there are so many colleges and high schools.
These are affluent areas and these people pay a lot in taxes. A good portion of these taxes go to the local police force who feel mandated to make sure that the children of affluent people are safe and staying out of mischief. And they don’t want young people drinking alcohol.
I went to college in the eighties and I went to Villanova. Before the ban on alcohol at my school came down about 1985ish, we drank in our dorm rooms. We went to frat parties. Alcohol was not the dominant feature of my college years but it was certainly something we did. I rarely recall alcohol being ill used to any great extent and I remember than if any person or group of persons became “profligate” in their use of alcohol on a particular night, the police or campus security would bust up the party, get rid of the booze, and tell everybody to go home. That used to be good enough for us.
But as the years went by, police increasingly gave Underage Drinking citations any time they even suspect that a person under 21 has been drinking. Villanova, St. Josephs, West Chester University…its all the same. The number of kids I have represented for these tickets who were merely present where alcohol was and took no part in any possession or consumption would probably shock the normal observer. For those who do imbibe, an Underage Drinking conviction can suspend their driving privileges in Pennsylvania for up to two years and can provide a blemish on their record that will be seen by those who may be asked to hire them for jobs as doctors, lawyers, teachers, and nurses. In short, as the Underage Drinking situation stands now, many kids are prosecuted and the consequences of a conviction can be far reaching and profound.
Its not like the “good old days”. Society does not view a teenage keg party with a wink and a “they’re just kids having a little fun” attitude. People are serious about cracking down on kids that drink. Make your own value judgements about this, but when your kid gets a citation for Underage Drinking, you’re are sure as hell going to want to get him or her out of it. There’s just too much riding. Thats when you call me. I am an not crazy about troublemaking kids that abuse alcohol and cause trouble but I am sympathetic to a young person who has made a mistake. Stay safe and keep your eyes peeled.