Pennsylvania and federal laws prohibit alcohol consumption until individuals have reached the age of 21. The Keystone State has a Zero Tolerance Law related to underage drinking, as noted on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation website.
If an officer stops an individual under 21 in public, he or she may need to submit to a breath test when displaying signs of impairment. An officer may request the test even when the circumstances do not involve a motor vehicle.
A breath test refusal may result in a more severe DUI charge
Because it is illegal for individuals under age 21 to consume alcohol, an underage individual showing a blood alcohol content test result of at least 0.02% may face a DUI charge. Refusal to provide a breath sample, however, may lead to a serious drunk driving charge.
When someone refuses a BAC test, an officer may charge the individual as though he or she had the highest BAC level of more than 0.16%. If convicted, penalties may include spending time in jail.
Underage individual arrested and charged with DUI with no motor vehicle involved
As reported by KDKA-TV CBS Local News, officers found a horse-and-buggy had crashed into a ditch along State Route 18. Its underage operator claimed he had no recollection of the accident, but he showed a BAC level of 0.125%, The test result led to officers arresting him and charging him with DUI.
A drunk driving charge does not require an underage individual to have operated a motor vehicle. Riding as a passenger or sitting in a parked car may lead to a DUI charge. When officers suspect an individual under 21 has consumed alcohol, they may request a breath test. In some cases, however, a roadside breath test machine may produce inaccurate results, and an individual may contest the charge in court.