Underage Drinking Penalties: Legal Consequences for Minors in Possession of Alcohol

The consequences for possession or consumption of alcohol by someone under the legal drinking age can be numerous and severe. Recent changes in the laws regarding underage drinking have increased the penalties for this juvenile crime in many jurisdictions.

For example, it is not necessary in most cases for a minor to have a certain amount of alcohol in their system to be punished. Many times, any detectable amount of alcohol is sufficient to bring charges against an underage drinker.

Penalties for Minors in Possession of Alcohol

Minors who are caught drinking alcohol may face the strictest consequences for their actions. Specifically, any person under the age of 21 who purchases alcohol; attempts to purchase, possess or consume alcohol; is intoxicated in a public place or lies about their age in order to obtain alcohol may be arrested and charged with underage drinking or Minor in Possession (MIP). This alcohol-related crime is a Class C misdemeanor that can be punished by:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • A mandatory alcohol awareness and education class
  • Eight to 40 hours of community service
  • Loss of driving privileges for a period of 30 days or up to 180 days

If a minor over the age of 17 is convicted of MIP, they may be fined up to $2,000, sentenced to 180 days in jail and face an automatic license suspension or revocation.

Exceptions to the Law

In some cases, it is legally permissible for a minor to possess, consume or buy alcohol. These include:

  • A minor who is employed at a business that serves alcohol may possess alcoholic beverages for the purposes of their job, but they are not permitted to consume any alcohol.
  • A minor who is under direct parental supervision is allowed to possess or consume alcohol while in the visible presence of their parent, legal guardian or adult spouse.
  • If a minor is employed by police during a sting operation to bust businesses who might be illegally selling alcohol to minors, that minor is permitted to purchase, attempt to purchase or misrepresent their age in an attempt to catch the alleged perpetrator.
  • If a minor who possesses or consumes alcohol contacts emergency services for another minor who may be in danger of an alcohol overdose, the minor who made the call may be exempt from legal consequences. However, to qualify for this exemption, they must have been the first person to call for help, remained on the scene until help arrived and cooperated with emergency personnel and police.

For more information about underage drinking and its range of penalties, get in touch with The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp at 713-868-6100.