Many young people in Philadelphia consume alcohol prior to their 21st birthday. There are also many colleges and universities in and around the city where drinking alcohol is a common activity. Many people likely understand that underage drinking is illegal, but most do not think it is that big of a deal. Even though it is not seen as a serious offense by them, an underage drinking conviction does have serious consequences.
Those consequences are just for the consumption of alcohol. While intoxicated a minor may do other things that result in further criminal charges such as damage to property, fighting or a DUI. While there are not different rules for minors for most crimes committed while intoxicated, such as damage to property, other crimes, such as DUIs, have special rules in place for minors.
In order for a person over 21 years of age to be charged with a DUI, the person's blood alcohol concentration level must be above .08 percent within two hours of the person's arrest. The penalties then increase, the higher the person's BAC is at the time.
However, minors -- individuals under 21-years-old -- only have to have a BAC level of .02 percent within two hours after the arrest in order to be charged with a DUI. So, basically if a minor has consumed any alcohol and drives, the person may be charged with a DUI.
The penalties are then the same as those for individuals above 21-years-old who has a BAC of.08 percent or higher. These penalties include fines, license suspension and possibly jail time depending on the actual BAC at the time and whether the minor has prior DUIs. All of these penalties and charges could be in addition to an underage drinking charge as well.
Minors in Philadelphia who drink and drive can receive DUI charges. While the penalties are serious, if convicted, the person charged is always innocent until proven guilty. There may also be potential defenses to the charge. This post only provides general information though and is not legal advice. Experienced criminal defense attorneys understand underage drinking laws and may be able to protect one's constitutional rights.
Source: Pennsylvania General Assembly, "Pennsylvania Statute Chapter 38," accessed on Feb. 23, 2015