Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor Crime in Minnesota

You may not think it is that big of a deal. Buying beer or liquor for underage kids, or frat brothers/sorority sisters still younger than 21, is a right of passage. You may justify it by thinking that you owe it to them because someone did it for you. Before you do so, though, think twice. And think again when you try to still justify it. Buying alcohol and giving it to underage persons is a crime. And not just a low level petty offense. It’s a gross misdemeanor crime and possibly even a felony. Furnishing alcohol to a minor is a serious crime and one that prosecutors and courts loathe.

The Minnesota crime for furnishing alcohol to a minor is defined as follows: “to sell, barter, furnish, or give alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 years of age.” The one nuance that almost always gets overlooked is when a person reaches 21 years of age under this statute: 8:00 a.m. the morning of their 21st birthday. So, this means that all those freshly minted 21 years old showing up to the bar at 12:01 a.m. on their birthday aren’t yet 21 under this law.

Furnishing alcohol to a minor is a gross misdemeanor crime in most cases. As a gross misdemeanor, the sentence could include up to a year in jail and a $3,000 fine. A good furnishing alcohol to a minor attorney can negotiate a non-gross misdemeanor outcome and avoid significant jail time and fine. In the rare instance, it can be a felony level crime when the underage person “becomes intoxicated and causes or suffers death or great bodily harm as a result of the intoxication.” There has been a marked increase in County Attorney offices charging drug dealers when the recipient overdoses. This is like that and we expect to see an increase in these felony level furnishing alcohol to a minor crimes in the same way.

The law provides for a presumptive stay of execution of any prison sentence for the felony level offense, with 90 days of local incarceration required still. Further, a stay of imposition outcome – which can be a great outcome in that it reduces the felony conviction to a misdemeanor conviction on the defendant’s criminal record after the person successfully completes probation – may only be granted if the Court states the reasons for it on the record. This is akin to a departure argument in a way, but not quite as good either.

There are two affirmative defenses to a furnishing alcohol to a minor charge in Minnesota. First, it is legal for a parent or guardian of the underage person to furnish alcohol to them solely for consumption in the house. Second, it is an affirmative defense if the defendant reasonably and in good faith relied upon representations of proof of being 21 when furnishing the alcohol. 

If you are facing furnishing alcohol to a minor charges, it is imperative to get a skilled Minnesota criminal defense attorney on your side. Given the public policy behind this law, this is not a case to be taken lightly – the prosecutors and courts won’t. Contact us immediately.