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Underage drinking is considered a “summary offense,” but it is still technically considered to be a “crime” because it is listed in Pennsylvania’s Crimes Code. The cases are heard before a magistrate judge. A conviction would go on a person's record and show up on a background check. A conviction for a first offense will include a 90 day suspension of driving privileges (though a person may get an occupational license to drive to work/school, for example), fines up to $500 plus administrative costs, and face up to 90 days in jail -though that is extremely rare and very unlikely.
For a first offense only, the court may, either on its own or upon request of the defendant, order that the defendant is placed in an “adjudication alternative program.” Under this type of arrangement, the defendant is not required to plead guilty, and the court may order one or more of the following “alternative” punishments:
- Community service
- Alcohol-education classes
- Any other reasonable punishment the judge feels fit
Once a minor reaches age 21, however, if they have completed all the terms of their punishment successfully, they may petition the court to expunge their record, meaning any record of the charge or conviction would be erased and would not show up on a background check and they could in most cases, deny ever having a conviction.
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