Students who are cited for underage possession of alcohol often assume that the charge is a minor one because it comes in the form of a citation, which appears similar to a traffic ticket. What the citation doesn’t explain, however, is that conviction for underage possession of alcohol will result in an automatic 90-day license suspension. Second and subsequent offenses can result in even longer suspensions. Certain professions-like teaching in certain school districts-also treat even a single conviction for underage possession of alcohol as a disqualifying offense. Once the student’s license is restored, moreover, the conviction can also increase the cost of insuring the student-driver’s car.
Local police officers are usually aware that a citation for underage drinking will have expensive consequences and, as a result, are sometimes willing to charge-bargain to another offense that does not include license suspension, job disqualification or added insurance costs. That process varies from township to township, but usually requires the student to (1) plead not guilty by checking the “not guilty” box and mailing in their citation to the local magisterial district court, and (2) appear in the local magisterial district court to negotiate with the police officer.
Except in rare cases, charge bargaining decisions are within the police officer’s discretion. It goes without saying that students hoping to benefit from that discretion should treat police officers with courtesy and respect. Gawthrop Greenwood routinely handles underage drinking citations, usually for a flat fee.
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