Possession and Consumption of Alcohol by Minors

Spring and summer are two seasons when underage drinking increases. Teens are more likely to be involved in car accidents after consuming alcohol than adults are. Tragically, hundreds of teenagers die each year in alcohol-related traffic accidents. Even if he is not injured in an accident, a teenager can still face criminal sanctions if he is caught consuming or possessing alcohol.

Social Host Liability

Since many youths obtain alcohol from parents or trusted adults, some states impose social host liability laws that prohibit adults from knowingly furnishing alcohol to minors. Doing so could result in being charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which carries punishments like:

  • Up to one year in jail
  • A fine of up to $4,000

In addition, adults could face civil liability if a minor is involved in an accident that injures another. Likewise, businesses that provide or sell alcoholic beverages are also held liable  if an individual of any age injures another in an alcohol-related auto accident. Known as dram shop laws, these statutes are intended to make bar owners more cognizant of the effects of drinking and driving, so that they will not continue to serve a patron who is obviously intoxicated.

Penalties for Purchasing Alcohol

Teens who try to purchase alcohol with a fake or altered identification card also face misdemeanor charges. They may be accused of forgery, as well, which could result in incarceration, fines and mandatory community service. Adults who help a minor create or alter an ID card face similar sanctions.

In order to prevent underage individuals from purchasing alcohol, Texas law requires all establishments with a liquor license to carefully check identification. Only a state- or federally-issued identification card should be accepted. A few examples include a driver’s license, state ID card or military identification card. It’s also imperative for employees to make sure the photograph on this card resembles the person producing the document, and to inspect it for signs of alteration. Business owners who do not follow these steps face severe fines and penalties as well as the loss of their liquor license.

Having laws on the books is not enough to curtail underage drinking. Reducing the number of alcohol-related fatalities among young people requires a coordinated effort between parents, school officials and law enforcement. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about the dangers of drinking and driving and know whom their children are with at all times.

To learn more about the penalties of underage alcohol consumption, call The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100 for assistance.