What effect will an underage drinking citation have on my future?
In Ohio, conviction of an underage drinking citation has pretty severe possible penalties. Jail time ranges from 0-180 days, Fines are 0-$1000 plus court costs, up to 5 years of probation plus supervision fees, the court can order a drug and alcohol assessment and any recommended treatment and counseling. The court can also give you a license suspension from 6 months to 1 year. All the liquor control laws can be found in ORC 4301. You can read the full underage possession statute in ORC 4301.69. The penalties are listed under ORC 4301.99.
The most important part to you is the section that allows your lawyer to petition the prosecutor and court for diversion. This allows the court to stay the proceedings and allow you to get treatment and counseling. If you complete the program the judge will dismiss the complaint and you might be eligible to have the record of it sealed.
If you are not eligible for diversion, you might still be eligible to have the conviction sealed. The law used to allow that one qualifying conviction could be eligible for expungement once in your lifetime. Now the law has changed to allow two. See ORC 2953.31 to 2953.36 of the Revised Code.
I would not expect you to serve actual jail time on a first offense all things being equal. That does not mean that the judge will not give you jail time suspended on the condition that you stay out of trouble, do what probation tells you, pay the money, and absolutely no similar offenses for 6 months to a year.
Some jobs require you to submit to background checks. If it is on your record it will remain forever unless you are eligible to have it sealed or expunged. Sealing will prevent it from appearing on most background checks. Some situation will allow an agency or employer to look through the sealing of the conviction. Consult your lawyer to find out if the job you are applying for will require such a disclosure.
This offense has serious potential consequences. But, most people in the world understand that kids will be kids. If you are convicted you might have to explain it to an employer in the future. Most employers would prefer to hire people without a criminal record. If you want a job that requires a security clearance it will be a big deal if you have a conviction on your record for an alcohol violation as it shows risk-taking behavior. Not something the government or government contractors are looking for in prospective employees.
Employers that consider hiring people with a history of underage drinking are more interested in how long ago the offense occurred and whether it was a one-time thing you learned your lesson from or is it the tip of the iceberg of problems you have. A conviction for underage drinking is not the end of the world, but you would be wise to stay away from alcohol until you are over 21 in Ohio.
If you happened to get charged I advise that you contact a lawyer right away. Chances are that you do not have enough money to hire a lawyer on your own. This means that you will have to rely on notifying your parents as soon as possible so that they can help you retain a lawyer to represent you.