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Pennsylvania’s stance on selling or furnishing alcohol to minors

On Behalf of | Apr 19, 2021 | Criminal Defense

Pennsylvania takes a strict stance against underage drinking. As a result, it also doles out harsh punishments to adults over 21 who furnish underage persons with alcohol.

Some PA residents assume that exceptions apply in certain situations. These assumptions typically land otherwise upstanding citizens in hot water. To prevent costly and possibly reputation-damaging mistakes, individuals should familiarize themselves with § 6310.1. of Title 18 of Pennsylvania’s legal code, which explains what it means to sell or furnish alcohol to minors and the minimum penalty.

Selling or furnishing alcohol to minors

According to the state’s definition, a person commits the crime of selling or furnishing alcohol to minors if he or she knowingly and intentionally furnishes or knowing and intentionally sells brewed or malt beverages or liquor to an individual who is not yet 21. A person also commits the crime if he or she intends to furnish or sell alcohol knowingly or intentionally to a person who is not of legal drinking age. Any offense described here is a third degree misdemeanor.

Penalty for selling or furnishing alcohol to minors

Pennsylvania law mandates that persons who violate § 6310.1. receive the minimum punishment as outlined by state law. The minimum punishment is a fine of not less than $1,000 for the first offense and a fine of at least $2,500 for each subsequent offense. The state does not recognize any authority that has the right or power to reduce or suspend the sentence. However, nor does the law prevent a judge from ordering a sentence that is greater than the minimum, so long as it does not exceed the maximum sentencing guidelines for a misdemeanor of the third degree.

No exceptions for parents

The state recognizes one exception to its rule, and that is if the furnishing of alcohol to an underage individual occurs in the course of a religious ceremony or service and within a private home or place of worship. Moreover, the amount of alcohol the underage party consumes must be in line with what is reasonable and customary for the service or ceremony.

The York Daily Record addresses the question of whether a minor can drink with his or her parents. In short, the answer is no. Parents can face criminal charges and penalties for allowing their minor children and/or their children’s friends to consume alcohol in their presence, or for providing said children with alcohol.

Moreover, the presiding judge may levy additional charges. For example, it is not unheard of for judges overseeing these types of cases to charge offenders with endangering the welfare of children and/or the corruption of minors, both of which are jailable offenses.