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Under Age 21 Possession of Alcohol

Underage Possession of Alcohol

In the state of Florida, it is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcohol. Despite the laws in place to prevent underage drinking, a minor in possession of alcohol is a criminal offense common among young people who are somewhere in between adulthood and the legal drinking age. The reality is that any person under 21 who is caught drinking or in the actual or constructive possession of alcohol could face criminal prosecution.

In some cases, law enforcement officers in Tallahassee will conduct a sting operation by targeting college students or young people in bars, restaurants, and night clubs. In many possession cases, the arresting officer will just issue a notice to appear in court without making a formal arrest. You should know that if you fail to appear in court on the citation, a warrant will be issued for your arrest.

Getting charged with an underage drinking offense can have a lasting impact on your future. If you are convicted, you could be required to pay fines, face a jail sentence, complete probation, and even lose the ability to drive. In some cases, you could even face a suspension or expulsion from your school or university.

The good news is that a defense attorney who is experienced in possession charges can help you fight back against conviction. Pumphrey Law’s goal in these cases is to get the charge completely dismissed so that you can avoid a criminal record and the consequences that come with a criminal record.

Tallahassee Attorney for Under 21 Possession of Alcohol

Have you or your loved one been accused of underage drinking or unlawful possession of alcohol? If so, finding the right attorney during this difficult time is imperative for your case. A defense attorney can help investigate the evidence against you, speak with eyewitnesses, and search for inconsistencies in the State’s argument. The defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law Firm are knowledgeable and prepared to represent your criminal case.

Our firm is also familiar with representing high school and college students charged with related charges for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and possession of a fake I.D. We represent clients throughout Tallahassee, Leon County, and all the surrounding North Florida counties. Contact our office at (850) 681-7777 or fill out our form online to receive a free consultation.

Minor in Possession of Alcohol

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) specifies when an individual can legally purchase and consume alcoholic beverages. Across the United States, the MDLA is considered 21-years-old.

Florida Statute Section 562.111 states it is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to have in his or her possession an alcoholic beverage.

The legal definition of an alcoholic beverage is outlined under Florida Statute Section 856.015 as any distilled spirit or beverage containing 0.50% of alcohol or more by its volume. That means a person under 21 who is caught with any of the following can be arrested for minor in possession of alcohol:

  • Beer;
  • Liquor;
  • Wine;
  • Mixed Drinks; and
  • Any other drink with alcohol intended for human consumption.

Important: While individuals under 21 are prohibited from possessing or consuming alcohol, there are two exemptions to an underage drinking charge:

  • Minor was an employee at an establishment with alcohol being served; or
  • Minor was at least 18 and enrolled in an institution or postsecondary program that required the taste of alcoholic beverages.

The following provides example scenarios that could result in an arrest for underage possession of an alcoholic beverage:

  1. House Party Bust – Commonly depicted on TV, a group of underage friends decide to throw a party while their parents are away. If the party gets busted by police, any of the underage partygoers who are caught in alcohol in their possession could be arrested.
  2. Underage Driver Pulled Over by Police – A police officer pulls a car over for a routine traffic stop and spots an open container of alcohol in the vehicle. Upon the officer’s further inspection, the driver and passengers are all under the age of 21.
  3. Fake ID at Bar or Event – A person under 21 attempts to use a fake ID to either purchase alcohol or get let into a public place designated for lawful drinking. If the bouncer or bartender discovers the fake ID and reports it to an officer, the individual could be arrested for minor in possession of alcohol as well as minor in possession of a fake ID.
  4. School Event – A student or group of students sneak in alcohol to a school-sponsored event, such as a dance or a sporting event. School security or administration could report the incident to law enforcement and result in arrests.
  5. Underage Gatherings in Public Space – Young people who gather in places to drink, such as in a public park or on a beach, who are caught by law enforcement could be arrested.

Penalties for Underage Drinking in Florida

Under Florida law, a minor caught in possession of an alcohol beverage faces a second-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, the penalties for a second-degree misdemeanor include:

  • Up to a $500 fine;
  • Up to six months of probation; and
  • Up to 60 days in jail.

For a second offense, a minor caught in possession of an alcohol beverage faces a first-degree misdemeanor. If convicted, the penalties for a first-degree misdemeanor include:

  • Up to a $1,000 fine;
  • Up to 12 months of probation; and
  • Up to 12 months in jail.

In addition to the fines and jail sentence, a defendant convicted of a first-time underage drinking offense will automatically lose their driver’s license for a period of at least 6 months and up to twelve months. For a second conviction, the defendant will automatically lose their license for a period of 2 years. In some cases, a defendant may qualify for a hardship license.

Contact the defense attorneys with Pumphrey Law Firm if you have any questions regarding the charges against you, their potential penalties, or how to file for a hardship license in Florida.

Defenses to Minor in Possession of Alcohol

Whether you’re a minor who was just accused of underage drinking or the parent of a minor who is facing an under 21 possession of alcohol charge, you should know there are still defense strategies that may be applied to your case. An experienced juvenile defense attorney with Pumphrey Law can provide you with a free consultation to discuss the following possible defenses:

  1. The prosecutor can’t prove that the substance possessed was alcohol;
  2. Defendant had the lack of knowledge that the drink possessed had alcohol in it;
  3. More than one person (defendant) could have had constructive possession over the alcoholic beverage;
  4. Defendant was an employee at an establishment that serves alcohol;
  5. The arresting officer failed to preserve a sample of the beverage as evidence;
  6. The arresting officer failed to read the defendant their Miranda warnings;
  7. The arresting officer conducted an illegal search and seizure, which can result in a motion to suppress the evidence seized;
  8. Defendant was experiencing an overdose related to alcohol, therefore exempt from arrest or prosecution for underage drinking under Florida law.

Contact the office of Pumphrey Law Firm to set up your free consultation today and speak with a legal representative about your case’s defense options.

Finding an Attorney for Underaged Possession Cases in Tallahassee, FL

While it can be understandably frustrating for young people to wait until they are 21 to drink alcohol, the alternative can result in a conviction on your criminal record. For high school students, a juvenile conviction can complicate your future with the potential of losing scholarships or university acceptance. If you’re already in college, getting caught as a minor with alcohol could result in losing your scholarship or getting suspended or expelled. With the harsh penalties laid out, underage possession is not a crime you want to be convicted of.

Luckily, you can fight back against these charges and work to avoid a criminal record and stiff penalties by hiring a Tallahassee criminal defense attorney with Pumphrey Law. Our defense attorneys have a deep understanding of Florida’s possession laws and can help investigate any holes in the opposing counsel’s case. If you’re an FSU student or minor in the surrounding Tallahassee area, do not hesitate and get ahead of your case by contacting Pumphrey Law Firm. Our defense attorneys offer a free case consultation when you call (850) 681-7777 or fill out a form online.


Page Updated January 15, 2024

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