Underage drinking fines in Pennsylvania will go up on holiday
A stiff drink will lead to stiffer fines for underage Pennsylvanians caught imbibing after Christmas Eve.
A state law that goes into effect on Dec. 25 increases the maximum fine for first offenses to $500 from $300 and subsequent offenses to $1,000 from $500. Gov. Tom Corbett signed the bill into law in November.
“The more obstacles or barriers there are for the use of a substance, generally the less use there will be,” said Dr. Neil Capretto, medical director of Gateway Rehabilitation Center in Moon, which treats people for alcoholism and other substance abuse. “Any time you increase penalties, it has an impact on use.”
The legislation intends to deter underage drinking around college and university campuses, said state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, one of the bill's co-sponsors.
“It's something we all need to address if you represent an area that has this type of activity,” said Fontana, whose district includes Downtown, South Side and the Strip District.
Increased fines could deter teens from drinking as long as their parents aren't the ones footing the bill, said Stacie Sebastian, director of professional service at Outreach Teen & Family Services, a youth counseling center in Mt. Lebanon.
“Making it come out of the kid's pocket would definitely be a deterrent. Monetary fines make us think twice about our behaviors,” Sebastian said.
Outreach Teen & Family Services runs a monthlong program for first-time offenders that explains the dangers of underage drinking and using drugs and the process of addiction. It also provides tips on how to refuse alcohol.
Experts said that although underage drinking is at near-historic lows, the problem is prevalent. Sebastian said her program, one of many in Allegheny County, helps eight to 10 youths a month “and that number isn't dropping.”
Carrick District Judge Richard G. King said he'd rather sentence underage drinkers to take classes or perform community service instead of slapping them with a higher fine.
“We're not here to make money for municipalities. We hear a case and give a proper punishment,” King said. “We have to think about whether my $100 fine for a person in Mt. Oliver hurts as much as a $500 fine in Wexford.”
Fontana said the justice system — from police to judges — must work together for the law to have an effect.
“I would hope that especially on a second or third offense, (judges) would go up to that $1,000 mark. I think that's a deterrent for an underage drinker and it sends a message to the parents,” he said. “You have to get tough if you want things to change.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Mother, baby found dead in Millvale apartment
- Weather continues to cause crashes, public transportation delays
- 100 without water in Baldwin Borough and Brentwood, repairs hampered by cold
- Loose barges on Monongahela River highlight woes of winter’s end
- Pittsburgh chess tournament likely to include pair of grandmasters
- Federal jury says gas company shorted owners on royalties
- Minority employment report: Diversified workforce lacking in Western Pa.
- Department of Education scrutinizes Point Park for response to sexual assault claims
- ‘Bus rapid transit’ link from Oakland to Downtown slow to actualize
- Power outage shutters several Pitt campus buildings
- Teacher conduct under spotlight in Pennsylvania