Underage drinking can lead to a host of crimes. Minnesota has a 'zero-tolerance' policy, meaning anyone under the age of 21 cannot have a drop of alcohol in their system - except for limited circumstances. Most crimes associated with underage drinking are misdemeanor offenses, which carries a criminal penalty of 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. In some circumstances, though, it can lead to gross misdemeanor or even felony offenses, such as if an adult furnishes alcohol to a minor who ends up dying from drinking said alcohol.
Here is a list of offenses that are commonly associated with underage drinking (please follow the links to read more about a particular offense):
- Minor Consumption - Simply put, a person under the age of 21 who has consumed alcohol.
- Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor - An adult who unlawfully provides alcohol to a minor.
- Underage Drinking and Driving - A minor who drives with any amount of alcohol in their system.
- Illegal Possession of Alcohol by a Minor - It is illegal for a minor to possess alcohol with the intent to consume it anywhere besides their home.
- It is illegal for a minor to enter an establishment where alcohol is sold for purposes of purchasing alcohol.
- Fake Identification - It is illegal for a minor to claim they are older than 21 when they are not for purposes of purchasing alcohol.
It is important to remember that a minor does not turn 21 - under the law - until 8 a.m. on the morning of their birthday.
There are several defenses that may exist for these charges. Depending on the circumstances, a defendant may be able to claim that they only consumed alcohol in their home with their parent's consent. They may claim they did not have the requisite intent to commit the offense charged.
One key defense that minors and adults should know is that there is immunity from criminal charges when an emergency exists. A minor is not subject to criminal charges for minor consumption or illegal possession of alcohol IF the person contacts 911 to report that a person (themselves included) is in need of medical assistance for an immediate health or safety concern. If this occurs, the person who calls 911 must provide their name and contact information, remain on scene, and cooperate with authorities. This immunity applies equally to the person calling 911 and the person receiving medical assistance. The goal with this immunity is to encourage minors to contact authorities and get medical help in case of an emergency. The last thing we want is for them to be afraid to seek medical assistance when they need it most because they're concerned about getting charged.
In addition to the criminal penalties associated with underage drinking, the collateral consequences can be just as significant, if not worse. For instance, an underage drinking offense can lead to loss of scholarships, getting kicked off extra-curricular teams or activities, lost job opportunities, etc. The last thing a young person needs is a criminal record creating a red flag just when they're starting their life.
If you, a loved one, or a friend are facing an underage drinking charge, you need to contact us immediately. We are experienced and successful in avoiding long-lasting criminal convictions for our clients. Here is a sampling of the successful case results we've achieved for clients facing underage drinking charges.