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Underage Drinking Consequences

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What is Underage Drinking?

In most states, minors become an adult at 18 years of age. However, it is illegal to consume alcohol if you are under age 21. Even though you are considered an adult at age 18, you are underage if you consume alcohol before your 21st birthday. There are a few exceptions to the minimum drinking age law, so be sure to check your own state’s laws.

What are Underage Drinking Laws?

Underage drinking laws are designed to curb the prevalence of alcohol use in people under 21 years of age. Underage drinking is a nationwide issue that has had a lasting impact on society for years. The following laws were implemented to reduce the incidence of underage consumption and makes it illegal for minors to:

  • Possess alcohol
  • Consume alcohol
  • Purchase or attempt to purchase alcohol
  • Possess a fake ID or misrepresent their age
  • Drive, even with a trace amount of blood alcohol content (BAC); varies by state

What are Some Consequences for Minors?

The law takes underage drinking seriously, and if you are caught violating any underage drinking laws, you may face the following consequences:

  • Driver’s license suspension
  • Possible jail time
  • Fines
  • Community service
  • Mandatory alcohol awareness classes

Not only does underage drinking have legal repercussions, but it may also affect the minor’s academics, extracurricular activities, and driver’s insurance policy. 

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

This question is dependent on state laws. In some states, it is not illegal for parents to provide alcohol to their children so long as it is at home and under their supervision.

Other states are very strict in this regard and will impose criminal charges on adults who knowingly serve, sell, give, or allow alcohol consumption by minors on their property. If a minor is injured or killed as a result of the adult contributing to the delinquency of the minor, the adult may face civil and criminal charges. Some jurisdictions will even charge adults if drinking is occurring on their property while they are not home.

What are the Consequences for Everyone Else?

Minors are not the only age group affected by underage drinking laws. Depending on state law, unless you are the minor’s ward or parent, if you participate in any of the following, you may be arrested, fined, and/or charged with a criminal offense:

  • Buy or give alcohol to a minor
  • Allow a minor to consume alcohol on your property
  • Allow a minor to use your ID
  • Sell alcohol to any person under age 21, even if they misrepresent their age

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are facing underage drinking charges, you should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Depending on the charge, penalties can be severe and have the potential to negatively impact several areas of your life. An experienced lawyer in your area can help build your case and represent your best interests in court.

Photo of page author Sarah Tipton

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 09-28-2017 03:40 PM PDT

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