Minors in Possession of Alcohol: The Hidden Dangers of the Solo Cup

Halloween Warning from your Orange County Criminal Attorney

On college campuses, Halloween is the unofficial halfway point of the semester. It’s a night for many young men and women to forget about school, dress in a costume, and go have a party. More often than not, college parties involve a lot of alcohol, and, as fun as that may sound, parents and police are well aware of this. So, if you are under the age of 21, or if you have children who are in college, here are some things that all students need to know before he or she puts down the books and picks up a red solo cup.

Minor in Possession: Big Consequences for a Little Crime

To many, underage drinking seems like it is not that big of a deal. For many of us, drinking at a college party is a part of growing up. Some might call it a rite of passage, symbolic of one of the many steps along the way to becoming an independent adult.

California’s lawmakers do not agree. Under California Business and Professional Code §25662, it is a misdemeanor for a person under the age of 21 to have an alcoholic beverage in their possession on any street, highway, or public place.[1]

Most of the time, a misdemeanor conviction involves paying a fine and/or spending some time in a county jail. This crime is a little different. On a first offense, you will have to pay a $250 fine, but instead of jail, you will be ordered to perform between 24 and 32 hours of community service.

So far, this doesn’t sound like a huge problem, right? It might be tempting to think that you’re better off not even spending money on a defense attorney to fight the charge in court, and to just plead guilty in order to move on with your life.

Unfortunately, the punishment does not end there. First, a misdemeanor will be on your criminal record. This can impact your life in many ways, including the possibility of affecting employment opportunities.

Additionally, a conviction for minor in possession of alcohol is one of a handful of crimes that shares a link with the laws that control your driver’s license. Under California Vehicle Code §13202.5, any person who is convicted of being a minor in possession of alcohol shall have their driver’s license immediately suspended for one year, and if you have not yet obtained your license, the court will notify the DMV to delay your license for one year after you pass the license test.[3]

These consequences can change the course of your life, and that is why it is so important to have an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side to help you fight.

“Hey, Can You Help Me and My Friends…?”

Minor in possession is a crime with two sides. There’s the underage defendant, and then there’s the person who provides them the alcohol. In California, it is a misdemeanor under California Business and Professional Code §25658 to furnish (that is, to give, sell, or purchase on behalf of) alcohol to any person who is not 21 years of age.[2] If you are found guilty of violating this law, you can be fined up to $1,000 and be required to perform a minimum of 24 hours of community service in either an alcohol or drug treatment facility or at a county coroner’s office.

It’s not uncommon for the police to pick their youngest-looking officers to work undercover, posing as minors trying to convince adults to buy beer on their behalf. If a young person meets you outside of a store and asks you to buy them some alcohol, your best bet is to politely decline and just keep walking.

Contact Professional Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you care about is charged with either being a minor in possession or with furnishing alcohol to a minor, you will need an experienced attorney to fight the charges on your behalf. As a former deputy district attorney, and a current Orange County criminal attorney, I have a wealth of experience in California criminal law, and I know what to expect from the prosecution.

[1] Cal. Bus & Prof. Code §25662: “(a) Any person under the age of 21 years who has any alcoholic beverage in his or her possession on any street or highway or in any public place or in any place open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor. This section does not apply to possession by a person under the age of 21 years making a delivery of an alcoholic beverage in pursuance of the order of his or her parent, responsible adult relative, or any other adult designated by the parent or legal guardian, or in pursuance of his or her employment. That person shall have a complete defense if he or she was following, in a timely manner, the reasonable instructions of his or her parent, legal guardian, responsible adult relative, or adult designee relating to disposition of the alcoholic beverage.”

[2] Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code §25658: “(a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (c), every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any person under the age of 21 years is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

[3] Cal. Veh. Code §13202.5: “(a) For each conviction of a person for an offense specified in subdivision (d), committed while the person was under the age of 21 years, but 13 years of age or older, the court shall suspend the person’s driving privilege for one year. If the person convicted does not yet have the privilege to drive, the court shall order the department to delay issuing the privilege to drive for one year subsequent to the time the person becomes legally eligible to drive. However, if there is no further conviction for an offense specified in subdivision (d) in a 12-month period after the conviction, the court, upon petition of the person affected, may modify the order imposing the delay of the privilege. For each successive offense, the court shall suspend the person’s driving privilege for those possessing a license or delay the eligibility for those not in possession of a license at the time of their conviction for one additional year.”

“(…) (d) This section applies to violations involving controlled substances or alcohol contained in the following provisions:

  • Article 7 (commencing with Section 4110) of Chapter 9 of Division 2 of, and Sections 25658, 25658.5, 25661, and 25662 of, the Business and Professions Code.
  • Division 10 (commencing with Section 11000) of the Health and Safety Code.
  • Section 191.5, subdivision (a) or (b) of Section 192.5, and subdivision (f) of Section 647 of the Penal Code.
  • Section 23103 when subject to Section 23103.5, Section 23140, and Article 2 (commencing with Section 23152) of Chapter 12 of Division 11 of this code.

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