In what can only be described as a strange glitch under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, minors can be charged with furnishing alcohol to other minors! Not only is such a scenario possible, it happens all the time to Penn State students. To add insult to injury, the minor in question will also be charged with "purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of malt or brewed beverages," pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S.A. 6308(a), better known simply as "underage drinking." A furnishing alcohol to minors conviction carries a mandatory $1,000 fine for each minor served, and a permanent criminal record, while an underage drinking conviction carries a mandatory driver's license suspension, even if the situation had nothing to do with driving.
The typical scenario unfolds when an off-campus party is raided by the police. Usually, the police are drawn to the party because it is either too loud, or there are so many people, that they are spilling onto the streets and sidewalks with open containers of alcohol in their hands. When the police notice that some of the party-goers are drinking underage, they immediately seek to shut down the party and determine who provided the alcohol. If the party host is under 21, he or she is going to be charged with both the summary offense of underage drinking and the misdemeanor charge of furnishing alcohol to minors.
Such logic does not extend to other age-based crimes in Pennsylvania. For example, if a 17 year old, bad boy, high school senior has sex with a sweet, innocent 14 year old, eighth grade girl, the 17 year old cannot be charged with corruption of minors, no matter how morally offended are the girl's parents, the prosecutor or a police detective. Only those over 18 can be charged with corruption of minors. Because most people are aware that only those 18 and older can be charged with corruption of minors, they assume that only those over 21 can be charged with furnishing to minors. This is simply not the case under Pennsylvania law.
So, the lesson to take away from this blog is that if you are a young person planning to throw a big rager, you need to be aware that if things get out of control and the police show up, you could find yourself charged with serving alcohol to minors, just like you would if you were a 50 year old parent allowing your kids and their friends to drink your beer in your backyard. Of course, it is far more embarrassing for a 50 year old parent to be charged with furnishing alcohol to minors than it is for a 20 year old college student.
Matt McClenahen is a criminal defense attorney and Penn State alumnus with extensive experience in furnishing alcohol to minors and underage drinking cases. http://www.mattmlaw.com/Criminal-Defense-Overview/Underage-Drinking.shtml