Drinking alcohol while underage might seem like a minor infraction, but the law punishes it harshly. If a person is under 21 and was caught drinking or possessing alcohol, they face criminal charges and consequences that could follow them for years.
Contact a local DUI attorney immediately if you or your child was ticketed for underage drinking. Grand Canyon Law Group can work to resolve the problem by getting the charges reduced or even dismissed, preserving a clean record.
Take Underage Drinking Seriously
Underage drinking can seem like a rite of passage and parents sometimes do not take it seriously. That is a mistake. Most underage drinking offenses are misdemeanors, and a conviction could result in a hefty fine and a jail sentence. A misdemeanor conviction also generates a criminal record.
If you miss court after being arrested or ticketed for an alcohol-related offense, a judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Although police are unlikely to look for you, the warrant will appear if you are involved in a traffic stop or encounter the police in another context.
Police often issue tickets to young people charged with alcohol-related offenses rather than arrest them and transport them to jail. However, you cannot resolve an underage drinking ticket online. You must appear in court to answer the charge. It is wise to engage a local lawyer to come to court and represent your interests before the prosecutor and the judge.
Charges Related to Minors and Alcohol
Arizona Revised Statute § 4-244(41) makes it illegal for anyone under 21 to have alcohol. There are narrow exceptions for religious and medicinal use if the consumption did not present a danger to the public.
Minor in Consumption
A young person could face a minor in consumption charge if the police believe they have consumed alcohol. This charge is a Class 2 misdemeanor, the second-most serious category of misdemeanor. Upon conviction, an offender could face a $750 fine and up to four months in jail.
Minor in Possession
When police catch someone under 21 with alcohol, they can bring a minor in possession charge, which is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Law enforcement officers do not need to see a minor consume alcohol, but it must be in their possession to support the charge.
Resolving the Charges
The good news is, it is often possible to resolve underage drinking charges without creating a criminal record for the minor. Although prosecutors and the courts are serious about discouraging this behavior, they are often amenable to creative solutions.
Counties throughout Arizona run diversion programs that allow an offender to participate in treatment, education, or some combination of these rather than go to jail. Different programs have different procedures and requirements, but in general, if the minor completes the diversion program, the prosecutor dismisses the charge. In some cases, the minor might have to plead guilty before entering a diversion program, but their plea would be wiped from their record if they complete it.
In some cases, the police might have sparse evidence of a minor’s misconduct, or the incident might have involved officer overreach. In such cases, an attorney can often convince a prosecutor to dismiss a charge without any penalty attaching to the minor.
Contact an Arizona Attorney About Underage Drinking Charges
Always contact a legal professional if you or your child is ticketed for underage drinking. A criminal conviction for a minor offense could have an outsized impact on a young person’s future.
Grand Canyon Law Group can help your family resolve the charges in the most favorable way. Discuss your situation by scheduling a free consultation today.