In the State of Florida, it is a crime for a person under the age of 21 to consume or possess alcohol. A minor caught in possession of alcohol may be charged with a first-degree or second-degree misdemeanor. The charge will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case. A misdemeanor criminal conviction is punished in the State of Florida with probation, jail time, fines, and a permanent criminal record. One of the more potentially damaging punishments, if convicted of underage possession of alcohol, is the permanent criminal record. A criminal record could hinder future opportunities in employment and education.
Prosecutors managing underage possession of alcohol charges typically attempt to negotiate a plea deal. However, you should never speak with the prosecutor in your child's criminal case, or agree to a "plea deal," without first speaking with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Musca Law defends clients throughout the State of Florida. Our criminal defense attorneys are experienced in all juvenile criminal cases. Our attorneys we will fight hard for your child's rights and you can be sure that your child will receive the best defense strategy possible.
Florida's Definition of Underage Possession of Alcohol
Florida Criminal Statute Section 562.111 defines underage possession of alcohol as an individual who has in his or her "possession" one or more alcoholic drinks, and the individual hasn't reached the legal drinking age of 21. Alcoholic drinks include:
- Alcoholic drinks intended for consumption
- Mixed Drinks
In a "minor in possession of alcohol" criminal case, there are two types of alcohol possession, "actual possession" or "constructive possession." If possession of alcohol is "actual," this means the defendant actually is in possession of the alcohol on his or her person, or the alcohol was within his or her control and reach.
In cases of "constructive possession" of an alcoholic beverage, the prosecutors are not required to prove to the court that the minor was actually holding the alcoholic drink. In a case where there is "constructive possession," the prosecutors only need to prove that the alcoholic drink was located where the defendant had control over the alcoholic drink, and the defendant had knowledge that the alcoholic drink was in his or her presence.
Also, it isn't necessary for the prosecution to prove the minor was drinking the alcoholic beverage, or the defendant was intoxicated in order for the prosecution to potentially obtain a conviction.
What is a Non-Alcoholic Beverage?
According to Florida Statute 561.01(4)(a), for a beverage to be considered an alcoholic beverage, the beverage must contain at minimum 1/2 of 1% or more alcohol by total volume. If a beverage had less alcohol content, the beverage is defined as being "non-alcoholic." Non-alcoholic drinks are legal for minors to possess in the State of Florida.
Penalties for Underage Possession of Alcohol
If your child is convicted for alcohol possession under the age of 21, your child will likely be facing a second-degree misdemeanor. The punishments for a first-time misdemeanor in the second-degree are up to 60 days in jail, six months' probation, and a $500 fine. If convicted, the judge may decide to impose one or more of the aforementioned punishments. In addition, a minor convicted of underage alcohol possession may automatically lose their driver's license for a period of 6 months to 1 year.
If the defendant has been previously convicted of minor in possession of alcohol, their current charge could be elevated to a misdemeanor in the first-degree. A misdemeanor in the first-degree increases the penalties, if convicted, to include up to 1 year in jail, 1 year of probation, and a fine of $1,000.
If a minor is convicted of a second or subsequent minor in possession of alcohol offense, he or she will face a mandatory driver's license suspension of two years. An experienced attorney may be able to defend your child's license in a hearing before the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. However, there is a limited time frame in which you may petition the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for a hardship license hearing and if the minor is qualified to possess a Florida driver's license.
Defending Against an Underage Drinking / Possession of Alcohol Criminal Charge in Florida
If your child has been arrested for underage drinking or minor in possession of alcohol offense in Florida, it is essential that you and your child speak with an experienced juvenile defense attorney. It is our job to make sure you are not subjected to unjust prosecution or conviction. Our attorneys work hard to exploit the weaknesses in the prosecution's case against your child and to develop an effective defense for your child. A few of the types of defenses our attorneys have successfully used in underage drinking or minor in possession of alcohol offenses in Florida include:
- Lawful Possession Through to Employment – In the State of Florida, an individual over the age of 18 may possess (but not drink) alcoholic beverages when performing his or her job.
- Temporary Possession of Alcohol – In some circumstances, the minor may not meet the standard of "legal possession" of alcohol. For example, an adult may ask a minor to pass him or her an alcoholic beverage. In this situation, the minor was in transitory possession of alcohol, and never minor never had complete dominion and control over the alcoholic beverage.
- The Overdose Defense – If an individual is experiencing an alcohol-related medical emergency such as an overdose, or if an individual is assisting another during an alcohol-related medical emergency, the individual may be immune from prosecution. However, to be immune from prosecution, the defense must prove the evidence in the minor in possession of alcohol case was obtained due to the need for emergency medical assistance or due to an overdose.
- Lack of Knowledge Defense – Another defense to an underage drinking or alcohol possession charge is the Lack of Knowledge Defense. In this defense, the defendant's attorney must prove that the minor was unaware that the beverage in his or her possession contained alcohol.
- No Search Warrant or Legal Justification to Enter the Property – In some cases, law enforcement has made a procedure mistake. If law enforcement enters or remains on private property without a search warrant or without legal justification, this defense could be effective for having a criminal charge dismissed by the judge.
Mistakes are Made. Let Musca Law Fight for Your Child's Future!
If your child has been arrested and charged for underage drinking or possession of alcohol in the State of Florida, the best chance of protecting their future is through retaining an aggressive and experienced juvenile criminal defense attorney.
Get your case started by calling us at (888) 484-5057 today!