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Juveniles: What to do if you're caught with an alcoholic beverage

The days of a blind eye to juveniles in possession of alcohol are over. The police and our legal system take these cases very seriously. The consequences of a juvenile being charged with an alcohol related offense (e.g. driving while intoxicated or minor in possession) can, under the right circumstances, be very severe. And these consequences may be extend to the parents or other persons involved in purchasing or furnishing alcohol to the juvenile.


Do cooperate with the police

Attitude goes a long way in possibly avoiding an arrest on an alcohol-related offense. There are generally three ways that a juvenile can be arrested for an alcohol-related charge. The first is by attempting to, or purchasing, an alcohol beverage. The second is by consuming an alcoholic beverage. And third is by simply possessing an alcoholic beverage. These offenses are ticket-type offenses which, in some cases, the police may let slide if the juvenile is respectful to the officer and to the juvenile’s predicament. However, get an attitude with the police and you may be arrested, jailed and spend the night in the pokey for an offense of public intoxication.

Do hire an attorney familiar with juvenile law and procedures

Alcohol offenses, particularly offenses which are labeled as “status offenses” (offenses which are illegal because of the person’s age), can normally be dismissed with the completion of an alcohol awareness class and community service. But be cognizant of the possible requirement of a parent to attend the alcohol awareness class if the juvenile is under the age of 18.

Do take these charges seriously

While initial charges are treated as ticket-type offenses multiple offenses can have serious consequences which can include county jail time, fines in the thousands of dollars and driver’s license suspensions. And more importantly these types of charges may be a precursor to a more serious alcohol problem. The Minor in Possession (MIP) of alcohol charge of today is the Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), intoxicated assault and intoxicated manslaughter case of tomorrow.

Do clean your criminal record

Getting your case dismissed is only half the battle. A dismissal does not, under most circumstances eliminate the arrest or citation information involved with an alcohol possession or consumption charge. Generally, their are three scenarios that will allow you to have your criminal record for an alcohol-related offense removed. A dismissal of your case, a deferment of your case or a finding of not guilty by a judge or jury. In some cases a single conviction for a status type offense can be expunged. You must affirmatively remove your criminal records because they are not eliminated simply from the passage of time.


Do not try to avoid the police by running or driving away from the scene

Attempting to leave the scene can have consequences far more serious than being ticketed for an alcohol possession or consumption charge. Leaving the scene by running away can result in the jail-able offense of evading arrest or detention. Driving away from the location could land you in jail for a driving while intoxicated offense or, if someone is hurt or killed from your driving, you could end up in prison.

Do not attempt to fight with the police

Fighting with the police will get you nowhere. At best you will be charged with resisting arrest or detention and at worst you will be charged with the felony offense of assault on a public servant. This includes injuring a police service animal.

Do not agree to time served or a fine amount until you have spoken to a juvenile law attorney

The payment of a fine or an agreement to take time served as a punishment will result in a conviction for the alcohol-related offense. This can have serious consequences concerning the suspension of your driver’s license or driving privileges and will eliminate your ability to later have your criminal record expunged for the offense.

Do not discuss with the police how you obtained the alcohol

While most alcohol-related offenses are treated as citations for the juvenile arrested or detained, the same is not true for the person who purchases or furnishes the alcohol to the juvenile. An offense for purchasing or furnishing alcohol to a minor can involve some lengthy county jail time and thousands of dollars in fines.

Do not underestimate the seriousness of using fake identification to purchase alcohol

Many teens will use a fake ID to purchase alcohol from a liquor store or to get into a bar. What they might not realize is that using someone else's ID or using a fake ID with the knowledge of its falsity is a jailable offense.There are also additional lesser criminal charges if they use other types of IDs, such as a college ID. Potential punishments could range in a simple $500 dollar fine and suspension of your own license in some states to criminal impersonation or forgery, which can get you up to 365 days in the county jail.

When you are caught with alcohol, the police may ask you how you obtained the alcohol. Whether someone else bought it for you or you bought it yourself using a fake ID, you should never reveal how you got the alcohol. Doing so could potentially incriminate someone else or even land you with a worse crime than just a minor in possession. Before you say anything to the police, be sure to speak with an experienced juvenile criminal attorney to ensure the best possible outcome.

Jumping cartoon

The days of pouring out the beer and letting a juvenile go home are over. An intoxicated juvenile is both a danger to himself and a danger to others. It is a right of passage that juveniles will experiment with alcohol. It was true for my parents, it was true for me and it will continue to be true for every generation. There is nothing wrong with responsible social drinking, but it should be reserved for those over the age of 21, who hopefully, will have a responsible respect for the use of alcohol.

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Brian J WillettJuvenile Defense Attorney

I am a graduate of the University of Iowa and Memphis State University School of Law. I received my undergraduate degree in Biology/Education and served as a teaching and research assistant while attending the University of Iowa. At Memphis Stat...

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