What Happens If You Serve Alcohol to a Minor?

Serving alcohol to a person under the legal drinking age of 21in Florida, whether it occurs in a commercial establishment or a private setting like a home party, is a criminal offense carrying rea criminal penalties and the potential for extremely substantial civil liability. This article explains how someone can be criminally charged for this offense in Florida, as well as what to do if you find yourself under investigation for serving a minor alcohol. 

Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, vigorously defends every client from criminal charges filed by the state or the federal government against them. Whether a serious felony or a misdemeanor, no criminal offense is unimportant as every conviction has the potential to result in limitations on the person’s liberty, expensive fines, or lifelong damage to their reputation.  



Serving Alcohol to Minors: The Law in Florida 


Commercial Establishments 

Commercial establishments, including bars, restaurants, and liquor stores, are subject to strict regulations regarding the sale and service of alcohol to minors. In Florida, it is illegal for any establishment to sell or provide alcoholic beverages to individuals under the age of 21.  

Violating this law can result in conviction for a second-degree misdemeanor carrying up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and separate administrative sanctions, including the possible loss of a liquor license. 

A second offense within one year of the first leads to the charge being elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor carrying up to 1 year in jail.  

It is important to note, however, that it is a complete defense to the charge if the person served in the commercial establishment  

  • represented themselves to be 21,  
  • was carded and used a state ID or license as evidence of their age, and  
  • appeared to an ordinarily prudent person to be 21 years old or older. 


The Christopher Fugate Act 

A special law was enacted in Florida to impose a higher penalty on commercial establishments if they permit one of their employees who is under 21 years old to consume alcohol on the premises. The statute was named for a 19-year-old young man who worked at a restaurant/bar. After drinking a number of beers after work, he was killed in a drunk-driving accident. 

A commercial establishment that serves or permits an underage employee to consume alcohol commits a first-degree misdemeanor and faces up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine in addition to administrative sanctions against their liquor license. 


Private Individuals

Private individuals also bear legal responsibility for serving alcohol to minors, whether it occurs at a home party or in other social settings. This includes situations where a parent is away, and their own child provides alcohol to underage guests. Serving alcohol to a minor is a second-degree misdemeanor offense for private individuals in Florida. Individuals convicted of this offense face fines of up to $500, probation, community service, and up to 60 days in jail. 


Social Host Liability 

When alcohol is provided to minors at a private residence, the homeowner or host can be held liable for any injuries or damages resulting from the consumption of alcohol. This is known as social host liability and can lead to civil lawsuits seeking compensation for medical expenses, property damage, and other losses. 


Contributing to the delinquency of an underaged person 

In addition to the second-degree misdemeanor charge of providing alcohol to an underaged person, a person who buys alcohol for a minor under age 18 may be prosecuted for unlawfully contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This offense is a first-degree misdemeanor carrying up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, among other potential restrictions of liberty.  


Seek an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer Immediately 

If you are facing charges for serving alcohol to a minor in Florida, it is crucial to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. Here are some situations in which you should contact a skilled lawyer without delay: 

  • If you have been arrested or cited for serving alcohol to a minor, it is imperative to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The defense attorneys at Stechschulte Nell in Tampa will review the details of your case, explain your rights, and develop a strategic defense to protect your interests. 


  • If you are under investigation or have been asked to provide a statement about allegations of serving alcohol to a minor, do not speak to law enforcement without legal representation. A skilled lawyer can advise you on how to handle interactions with investigators and protect your rights during questioning. 


Serving alcohol to a minor in Florida is a serious offense with significant legal ramifications. Whether it occurs in a commercial establishment or a private setting, individuals who provide alcohol to underage individuals can face criminal charges, fines, and potential civil liability.  

If you find yourself in this situation, it is crucial to seek legal counsel immediately. 

Contact Tampa’s Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyers 

Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law 

Call 813-280-1244 

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