Underage Drinking Consequences

Authored by , LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

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What is Underage Drinking?

In many states, the age of majority (when a person becomes an adult) is at 18 years old.  However, drinking laws don’t allow a person to lawfully consume alcohol until they are 21 years old.  Thus, underage drinking can occur even if a person is already legally considered an adult. 

Underage drinking is considered a major problem in the U.S., and is linked with several health concerns and safe driving concerns.  Thus, many underage drinking laws also require schools and educational organizations to institute informational courses on the dangers of underage drinking.

In some states, underage drinking is allowed, so long as it occurs under a parent’s supervision, and at their own home.  However, some states hold parents liable if they or their child violates underage drinking provisions, and public underage drinking is never allowed.

What are Some Consequences of Underage Drinking?

The consequences of underage drinking can often be severe.  While most juvenile laws aim at rehabilitating rather than punishing minors, underage drinking is still strictly punished in comparison to other juvenile crimes

Some penalties for underage drinking may include:

In addition, underage drinking can also have negative consequences in other areas of the person’s life, such as driver’s insurance policies.  Depending on school policies, underage drinking can also have negative effects in some areas of school life, such as the person’s ability to participate in sports or certain ceremonies.

Can Parents be Held Liable for Their Child’s Underage Drinking?

This depends- as mentioned, some states actually allow underage drinking if it occurs under a parent’s supervision, within the boundaries of their own home. 

However, many states impose criminal charges on adults who engage in serving or selling alcohol to minors. Also, an adult can be charged with a crime if they knowingly allow minors to consume alcohol while on their property.  Even worse, if the minor is hurt or injured as a result of drinking at the adult’s home, the responsible adult(s) may face criminal or civil charges. 

Lastly, some jurisdictions are so strict that they impose penalties on adults if underage drinking occurs at their house, even if the parent isn’t home or aware that there is underage drinking going on. 

Do I Need a Lawyer if I Have Legal Issues Involving Underage Drinking?

Underage drinking consequences can be very severe, especially for repeat offenses, or for instances where the minor has been injured.  If you need immediate legal assistance, you may wish to speak with a criminal defense lawyer in your area.   A qualified attorney can help represent you in court, and can also perform various legal tasks like filing documents, interpreting laws for you, and providing you with legal counseling.

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Last Modified: 08-28-2012 11:49 AM PDT

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