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Bill Increases Fines for Underage, Public Drunkenness

October 26, 2012

Bill increases fines for underage, public drunkenness


Published: October 25, 2012

HARRISBURG - A bill that raises maximum fines for alcohol offenses and awaits the governor's anticipated signature could generate an estimated $6 million in new annual revenue spread across Pennsylvania municipalities.

The legislation winning final approval last week would increase the maximum fines to $1,000 for underage drinking and public drunkenness.

Currently, maximum fines are $300 for public drunkenness and first-time underage drinking citations. Repeat underage offenders are subject to $500 fines.

Sen. Jake Corman, R-34, Bellefonte, sponsored the legislation to create a greater deterrent to alcohol misuse and to help municipalities meet the costs of responding to alcohol-related offenses.

Mr. Corman represents the State College area, and the legislation is sought by municipalities hosting colleges and universities. Officials in these towns report drinking violations are on the rise. The Pennsylvania Municipal League supports the bill.

"If higher fines are chosen, the municipality and taxpayers will see relief in the cost they bear, this time paid by the actual violator, rather than through increased property taxes," said Mr. Corman.

The $6 million revenue estimate comes from fiscal notes on the legislation prepared by the Senate and House Appropriations Committees.

As a starting point, the notes cite 2011 statewide statistics from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts showing 27,309 convictions for public drunkenness, of which 4,584 resulted in a maximum fine, and 13,959 convictions for underage drinking violations, of which 4,117 resulted in a maximum fine.

The estimate assumes that a similar number of convictions will receive the higher maximum $1,000 fine set by the legislation.

The committees have no potential revenue breakdown by municipality.

A related Corman bill to levy an additional fee on alcohol offenses to support prevention programs didn't win final passage before voting on bills ended for this legislative session.

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