When you’re in high school or starting college, it seems like drinking is all your peers do. It’s easy to fall into peer pressure when all your friends are drinking and nothing bad has happened to them. You may not think it’s that serious but drinking while underage can lead to harmful consequences.

Pennsylvania takes underage drinking very seriously. One mistake can go on your record for the rest of your life. Before you drink, think of how it can affect you and your future.

What happens if you’re convicted for underage drinking?

In Pennsylvania, underage drinking is a criminal offense. If convicted, this offense will go on your permanent record. Once something is on your permanent record, you must disclose it to any future schools, employers and insurance companies. It will also show up on any background check.

For a first offense, you must pay a $500 criminal fine. You will also lose your driving privileges for 90 days. For a second offense, the fine jumps to $1,000 and you may lose your driving privileges for a year.

How can I avoid this?

Any person under the age of 21 should refrain from drinking. You can get caught at any time and in any situation. Most teens believe they are above the law, but you shouldn’t risk your future on chance.

If charged for underage drinking, talk to your parents before you do anything. Even though it will upset them, you need them to help you navigate through this process. Depending on the charges, your parents may opt to hire a lawyer. A lawyer could lessen your charges, but it’s not guaranteed.

Drinking underage can cause a major disruption in your life. It can cost you getting into the college you want, getting a driver’s license or having a job. Think before you follow the crowd.