MD Attorney General Scandal Serves as a Reminder: The Criminal Consequences of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors in Pennsylvania

By: Dave Mueller, Criminal Defense Attorney

The media has been actively following a recent political scandal involving the Maryland Attorney General’s alleged involvement with underage drinking. The Attorney General has been immersed in a controversy related to photos posted to a social media site that some say appear to show him attending an underage drinking party. While there is no allegation that the Attorney General did anything criminally wrong in this case, the story highlights an important issue for parents and anyone involved in the lives of teens: the risks and criminal consequences of providing alcohol to anyone under age 21.

In Pennsylvania, the offense of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors occurs when a person “intentionally and knowingly sells or intentionally and knowingly furnishes, or purchases with the intent to sell or furnish, any liquor or malt or brewed beverages to a person who is less than 21 years of age.” This offense is a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree, meaning that each violation could carry a penalty of 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. It also carries a mandatory minimum $1000 fine for a first offense and a $2500 fine for any subsequent offenses.

Other than a narrow exception for legitimate religious activities, there is no exception under the law permitting parents to provide alcohol to their own children. Further, a person who provides alcohol to multiple minors could face one count for each minor involved. The state can pursue the mandatory minimum fine for each count, and the court could run the penalties for each count consecutively. The law also potentially exposes a person who provides alcohol to minors to criminal prosecution for injuries and accidents resulting from intoxication. This has included cases in which parents have been found recklessly culpable for vehicular homicide, where teens who drank the alcohol were later killed in an alcohol-related vehicle accident. These penalties are above and beyond any civil liability that could result, which may not be covered by some homeowners insurance policies if it arises from criminal conduct.

If you are currently charged, or think that you may be charged, with any alcohol related offense in Pennsylvania, it is critical to contact a lawyer experienced with criminal offenses immediately. This is particularly crucial if law enforcement is requesting any interviews or statements, as you may be unaware that your exposure to criminal prosecution goes well beyond the furnishing charge itself. There are real defenses that can be explored with your attorney, and other options that may include disposition of your case without a criminal conviction on your record. Contact us today for a no-charge consultation with a criminal defense attorney.

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