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Possession of Alcohol Under 21 / Sale of Alcohol to Underage Person

The Law and Penalties

Alcohol is an American commodity as well as an industry, and both aspects are heavily regulated by the states. Although Florida law is not as strict as other states, Florida still has plenty of restrictions when it comes to the sale and consumption of alcohol. Aside from the criminalization of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), another well-established restriction is the age of consumption; persons under the age of twenty-one (21) are prohibited from having alcohol. Enforcement of the age limit is applied to underage youths and sellers of alcohol alike.  

Florida Statute section 562.111 states that a person under the age of 21 must not possess alcoholic beverages unless he or she is acting within the scope of employment or tasting as part of a college class. A youth who violates this section is guilty of a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. A subsequent violation of the age limit is considered a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by 1 year in jail and a $1000 fine.

On the other side of the coin, Florida Statute section 562.11 punishes those who sell, give, or serve alcohol to an underage person, or allow an underage person to consume alcohol on the premises. The penalty for giving alcohol to a person under 21 is also a second degree misdemeanor, and a repeated offense could rise to a first degree misdemeanor. It is also a first degree misdemeanor to provide alcohol to an employee under the age of 21.

Defenses

A person charged with Possession of Alcoholic Beverages by Persons Under Age 21 really only has a few obvious defenses: (1) The accused is not really underage; (2) The accused possessed alcohol as part of his or her job; and (3) the accused was engaged in alcohol-tasting as part of a college class. While an experienced criminal defense attorney may come up with a clever defense for a particular case, it may be that the case is ripe for mitigation rather than a defense based on the facts. Mitigation involves the presentation of positive information about a defendant to the prosecuting agency or judge to advocate for a lesser sentence (or even possibly the chance of dismissal). The underage person may also consider requesting immunity in exchange for testifying against the person who gave or sold the youth the alcohol, as long as the youth did not misrepresent his or her age in the course of the transaction.

Business owners licensed to sell alcohol have the benefit of a “complete defense” to the crime of Selling, Giving, or Serving Alcoholic Beverages to Person Under Age 21; if the underage person presented a fake ID representing that he or she was of legal age to drink, the licensee is not responsible for the innocent mistake of selling alcohol to an underage person. Moreover, the underage person who misrepresented his or her age is guilty of a second degree misdemeanor.   

Enforcement: Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco

Any local law enforcement agency in the State of Florida has the power to enforce underage drinking laws. However, the agency notorious for seeking underage drinking violations is the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT) from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The ABT is a state (rather than local) regulatory agency that licenses and regulates the sale of alcohol and tobacco. Their Bureau of Law Enforcement is the branch responsible for conducting criminal and administrative investigations. You can often find the Bureau of Law Enforcement on college campuses issuing Notices to Appear to underage violators, or at bars and clubs writing up underage drinkers and the complicit bartenders. 

Charged with Possession of Alcohol Under 21 or Selling Alcohol to Person Under 21?  Call us.

Our criminal defense law firm in Wellington, Florida is experienced in underage drinking cases. Attorney Lourdes Casanova, founder of Casanova Law, is a former prosecutor for Palm Beach County who has litigated thousands of criminal cases. She is fully trained to fight for you.

Upon selecting Casanova Law as your criminal defense law firm, you will receive the benefit of experienced advice, fierce litigation, frequent case updates and meaningful review of the evidence. Our goal is to get your case dismissed.

Contact us today for your underage drinking case.

(561) 236-5340

info@casanovalawpa.com

www.casanovalawpa.com

FAQs about Underage Drinking Cases

Can minors drink with parents in Florida?

Unlike some states, Florida law does not carve out a “parental supervision” exception to underage drinking. A parent cannot legally authorize a child under 21 to drink alcohol.

Can you drink at age 18 in Florida?

No person under 21 can drink alcohol, except students at least 18 years of age who are tasting alcohol as part of a college curriculum.

Can I drink at home if I’m 18?

Persons under 21 cannot legally drink alcohol anywhere in Florida – including in their own home.

Can minors sit at the bar in Florida?

Minors can sit at a bar in Florida as long as they are not drinking alcohol.

What happens if you get caught drinking under 21 in Florida?

Underage drinking is a second degree misdemeanor in Florida. If you get caught drinking while under the age of 21, you may get arrested or receive a Notice to Appear in criminal court.  

Is possession of alcohol by a minor a crime in Florida?

Possession of alcohol by a minor is a crime in Florida with the potential for heavy fines and jail time.

What happens if a cashier sells alcohol to a minor?

Can minors sell alcohol in Florida?

Minors can sell alcohol within the scope of their employment, subject to the restrictions outlined in Florida Statutes 562.13 and 562.111.

Can parents buy alcohol for minors in Florida?

Parents are NOT allowed to buy alcohol for minors in Florida. Florida law prohibits selling, giving or serving alcohol to a person under 21. A violation of this law is a second degree misdemeanor.

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