In 2009, minors consumed 9.5 percent of all alcohol sold in Florida. Nationwide, the CDC reports that people ages 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol, more than 90 percent in the form of binge drinking. According to Florida Statutes §562.111, however, people younger than 21 cannot possess alcohol. This prohibition includes commercial beverages, such as beer, ale, malt beverages, malt liquor, or distilled spirits, or mixed drinks containing one-half of 1 percent or more alcohol by volume.
Possession of alcohol does not mean you have actually consumed the alcoholic beverage. A minor who purchases, attempts to purchase, or knowingly possesses alcoholic beverages, may face charges. If you are younger than 21, just holding an unopened alcoholic beverage violates the law. Possession of alcohol by a minor is a second-degree misdemeanor. If you were previously convicted of the same offense, penalties may grow harsher.
Exceptions to the Underage Possession of Alcohol Law
Florida provides two exceptions to the underage possession of alcohol law. A person older than 18 may legally possess (but not consume) alcoholic beverages in the scope of employment—for example, as a bartender or waiter. The second exception provides that the law regarding possession of alcohol by a minor does not apply to a student age 18 or older, under specific educational circumstances as outlined in the law.
Penalties For Possession of Alcohol by a Minor
Penalties for a conviction may include:
For a first offense:
- A maximum fine of $500
- A maximum jail sentence of 60 days
- Suspended driver’s license for six months to a year
For a second or subsequent offense:
- A maximum fine of $1,000
- A maximum jail sentence of one year
- Suspended driver’s licenses for two years
Penalties may also include probation, community service, and alcohol and drug awareness programs.
Possible Defenses to Possession of Alcohol by a Minor
Parents often try to defend their child by stating that the alcohol was provided by the parents or under parental supervision. Unlike some other states, however, Florida law does not allow parents to authorize their children younger than 21 to possess or drink alcohol even when under their supervision.
Defenses that your attorney may raise against the charge include:
If more than one person had access to the alcohol, the prosecutor would have to prove that the accused minor knew about the presence of the alcohol, knew that the alcohol was illicit, and exercised dominion and control over the alcohol.
If the charge was possession of a mixed drink, authorities must secure the entire drink as evidence, or may find proving that the drink contained 1 percent or greater alcoholic content by total volume impossible.
If a minor takes momentary, temporary, or transitory possession of alcohol from another person, such as passing it from one person to another, then the minor never exercised dominion and control over the alcohol and Florida law does not consider that legal possession.
If You or Your Child Were Arrested for Alcohol Possession in St. Petersburg, Call Khonsari Law Group
If you or your child are charged with the crime of possession of alcohol by a minor, speak to an experienced and compassionate attorney right away. For more information, call Khonsari Law Group in St. Petersburg at (727) 269-5300, or contact Khonsari Law Group online. We are here to help you.