If you are under the legal drinking age of 21, there may be times when you are in a college setting or a bar scene where it is “normal” to drink with friends. You may not think twice about taking an alcoholic drink from a friend or entering a party where there is alcohol. But being caught in possession of alcohol if you are underage is serious and has life-altering consequences.
In addition to harsh penalties, it will remain on your permanent criminal record affecting the rest of your life regarding employment and housing options. The next time you are in a situation where you are tempted to drink underage, make sure you know what it means and what the consequences are.
What Is Underage Possession?
In Florida, the legal definition of underaged possession extends beyond just being in possession of alcohol under 21 years of age. Florida Statute 562.111 states that it is unlawful for a person under 21 years of age to be in possession of an alcoholic beverage, including beer, wine, liquor, mixed drinks, and other alcoholic drinks. But goes on to state that “possession” can be actual or constructive.
Just like the name implies, actual possession of an alcoholic beverage means that the drink is on the underaged person, or within ready reach and under their control.
Constructive possession on the other hand is alleged—the underaged person does not have to be holding the alcoholic beverage. For constructive possession, the prosecution needs to show that the beverage was in a place that the accused had control and that they had knowledge that it was within his or her presence.
Consequences for Underage Possession
Underage alcohol possession can either be a first- or second-degree misdemeanor, depending on if it is the underage person’s first or second offense.
If it is the first time an underage person is accused of underage alcohol possession it is generally classified as a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties for this include a maximum of 60 days in jail or six months of probation and a $500 fine.
When the offense is committed for a second time or more, it will be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. These penalties are more severe and can result in up to 1 year in jail or twelve months of probation and a $1,000 fine.
Additionally, all persons convicted of underage alcohol possession will automatically lose their driver’s license for a timeframe of 6-12 months. For subsequent offenses, the timeframe increases to a mandatory 2-year revocation.
Learn More> The Reality of DUI and Underage Drinkers
Underage Possession Defenses
When a person is accused of underage alcohol possession, several defense strategies can be used. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney, such as one at Stechschulte Nell Law, will be able to expertly contest the charge(s) if one of the defenses is applicable. Some common defenses include:
- Non-alcoholic beverage
- Lack of proof of knowledge
- The prosecution cannot prove control over beverage
- Lack of knowledge that the drink was within the accused’s presence
- Holding the drink for a friend, but not realizing it was alcoholic
- Destruction of evidence
- Failure to read Miranda warnings
- Lack of a search warrant or other legal justifications to enter or remain on the premises
Accused of Underaged Alcohol Possession?
If you or a loved one have been accused of underage alcohol possession, contact our attorneys at Stechschulte Nell Law immediately. We can help mitigate or lessen the charges against you so you can move forward with your life.
To avoid a permanent criminal record call Stechschulte Nell Law for a consultation at (813) 280-1244 and let us defend you!