Possession of Alcohol by anyone under 21 years of age can either be a first or second-degree misdemeanor. The charge can also have serious consequences for college and high school students, including disciplinary actions by the school, college, or university. It can also lead to a life-long blemish on someone’s criminal record.
If you or a loved one is charged with Minor in Possession of Alcohol, it is important to be represented by a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney. An attorney may be able to help you get the charges dismissed outright or at least avoid a criminal conviction. Do not simply enter a plea to the charges without getting the advice of a Tampa criminal defense lawyer.
Kerstin Wade represents students at the University of Tampa and The University of Southern Florida as well as other schools and colleges in the Tampa Bay Area charged with various criminal charges, including underage drinking and underage possession of alcohol. Kerstin Wade’s office is centrally located just a few blocks from the Hillsborough County Courthouse in Tampa.
Statute 562.111 prohibits anybody under the age of 21 from possessing any type of alcohol. This means that the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
the defendant is under 21 and
that the defendant possessed alcohol.
Often times the police will attempt to get the defendant to admit their age or voluntarily show them their ID or driver’s license. The officer will also attempt to get the defendant to voluntarily hand over their drink to them so the law enforcement officer can determine whether or not it is alcohol. This means that many times the most cooperative people will end up with a criminal charge for minor in possession.
Even though the charges seem pretty self-explanatory and easy to prove there are various defenses a skilled criminal defense lawyer can use to help defendants charged with possession of alcohol under 21.
Outright dismissal of the charges based on a violation of due process when the law enforcement officer does not preserve a sample of the alcoholic beverage.
Outright dismissal of the charges if the evidence is suppressed because of an illegal search or seizure. This applies in situations when the police illegally detains or arrests a young person and ask them questions without probable cause.
Exclusion of statements made by the defendant if the police officer fails to read the defendant Miranda rights after detention.
• Outright dismissal of the charges in cases where the prosecutor is unable to prove all of the elements beyond a reasonable doubt.
In addition to the various defenses listed above, the Florida statute for minor in possession of alcohol also lists various exceptions. Those are situations in which the prohibition against possession of alcohol under 21 does not apply.
Florida Statute 562.111 provides an exception to the possession of alcohol by someone under 21 for anybody who is at least 18 years old and works “in the sale, preparation, or service of alcoholic beverages in licensed premises in any establishment licensed by the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco or the Division of Hotels and Restaurants.”
The statute also provides an exception for the tasting of alcohol by a student who is at least 18 years old and is tasting the alcohol as part of their curriculum. The alcohol has to be in the possession and control of the instructor and the student is only allowed to taste the alcohol.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office will often set up sting operations to catch a large number of minors in possession of alcohol. The officers will be at concerts, school football games or even clubs that admit people under 21. The officer will be undercover and approach anybody looking very young and involve them in a conversation to find out their age and then ask for the drink to see whether or not the drink may contain alcohol. That is why the ones who are the most cooperative and actually comply with police and voluntarily hand over the drink or answer the officer’s questions are the ones who will get caught and end up with criminal charges.
A first time charge for possession of alcohol by a minor is a second degree misdemeanor. It is punishable by a $500 fine, up to 60 days in jail and or 6 months of probation. The judge will also be required to suspend your driver’s license for 6 months to a year if convicted. Any second or subsequent offense of possession of alcohol by a minor is a 1st degree misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $1000, up to 1 year in jail and or 1 year of probation.
If you or a loved one is charged with minor in possession of alcohol, contact Kerstin Wade today for a free consultation to see how she can help you.