An alcohol crime is any illegal act involving alcoholic beverages. There are a number of laws governing the sale, consumption, and transfer of alcoholic beverages. Due to the intoxicating effect of alcoholic beverages, alcohol laws are enforced very strictly. Being convicted of an alcohol crime or alcohol-related crime can lead to serious criminal penalties.
Some examples of alcohol crimes include:
- Drunk driving or DUI
- Public intoxication or public drunkenness
- Open container violations
- Under age drinking
- Operating or assembling an amusement ride while under the influence
- Dry Law violations (i.e., no alcohol on days such as Sundays)
Alcohol crimes do not always involve the consumption of alcohol. Many alcohol crime laws address other aspects such as possession and sales of alcohol beverages. These types of crimes may include:
- Violation of liquor license provisions
- Using a fake ID to buy alcohol
- Minor in Possession of alcohol (MIP)
- Selling alcohol to a minor
- Selling alcohol to an intoxicated person
- Selling liquor in a no-alcohol zone
Alcohol and liquor laws may vary by state or even by local jurisdiction. For example, not all states enforce dry law provisions. Also, punishments for alcohol crimes can be different in each state.
What are the Legal Penalties for Alcohol Crimes?
Because there are so many different alcohol crimes and alcohol laws, the legal penalties for alcohol crimes can range from very minor to very serious. For example, public intoxication is considered a minor offense in many states and may result in a simple traffic citation.
On the other hand, other crimes such as drunk driving or liquor license violations are misdemeanors in most states. Legal penalties for misdemeanors may include a small monetary fine and/or a jail sentence of less than one year.
Some alcohol crimes will immediately result in felony charges, punishable by higher fines and a sentence in prison for more than one year. Most felony alcohol crimes involve serious injury to another person or severe property damage caused by the intoxication (as in the crime, DUI involving “serious bodily harm”).
What is a “Repeat Offense”?
One thing that is common for alcohol crimes in most states is that penalties will increase for repeat offenses.
A repeat offense is when a person is charged with the same crime more than once on different occasions. For example, a person may be charged with drunk driving and sentenced to jail for six months. If they are caught again for drunk driving after they are released from jail, the second charge is known as a repeat offense, or “subsequent offense”.
Because of the health and safety concerns associated with alcoholism, repeat offenses for alcohol crimes are punished very strictly.
In most states a first-time DUI offense is almost always classified as a misdemeanor if it did not result in injury or death to another person. However, a second or third-time DUI offense becomes “elevated” to a felony charge in nearly all states. Elevation from misdemeanor to felony charges can also apply for other types of alcohol crimes.
Do I Need a Lawyer if I am being Charged with an Alcohol Crime?
Alcohol laws can be very different depending on where you live. If you are unsure of the laws in your area, you may wish to consult with a criminal lawyer for advice. Alcohol crimes can result in serious criminal penalties, but an experienced lawyer can help you defend you in court.