Furnishing alcohol to a minor is the act of providing, serving, or otherwise making alcohol available to people under the legal drinking age. Under alcohol laws in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21.
Selling Alcohol to Minors
What Are Some Examples of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors?
Examples of furnishing alcohol to minors include:
- Buying alcohol for minors at a store or bar
- Serving alcohol to underage people in a party environment, event, or gathering
- Allowing minors to consume alcohol in one’s home or on one’s property
- Providing minors with fake identification to purchase alcohol
Buying Alcohol for Minors at a Store or Bar
Scenario: John, a 23-year-old, is approached by his 17-year-old cousin, Sarah, who asks him to buy her some alcohol for a party she’s attending. John agrees and takes her to a nearby store. He purchases a case of beer and a bottle of vodka for her. Later, Sarah is caught with the alcohol by the police, and John is charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor.
Serving Alcohol to Underage Individuals at a Party, Event, or Gathering
Scenario: Emily is hosting a graduation party for her younger sister, who is 18 years old. Emily decides to serve alcohol at the party, knowing that many of her sister’s friends are underage. Throughout the night, Emily pours drinks for several minors, including her sister’s 17-year-old best friend, who later gets in a car accident after driving under the influence. Emily is subsequently charged with furnishing alcohol to minors.
Allowing Minors to Consume Alcohol in One’s Home or on One’s Property
Scenario: Dan and his wife, both in their 40s, decide to host a New Year’s Eve party at their home. Their 19-year-old son, Alex, invites several friends from college, who are all under the legal drinking age. Dan and his wife are aware that Alex and his friends are consuming alcohol at the party, but they choose not to intervene. The police are later called to the house due to a noise complaint, and Dan and his wife are charged with furnishing alcohol to minors.
Providing Minors with Fake Identification to Purchase Alcohol
Scenario: Laura, a 22-year-old college student, works at a local print shop. Her 18-year-old friend, Lisa, asks Laura to create a fake ID for her so that she can buy alcohol. Laura agrees and makes the fake ID, which Lisa successfully uses to purchase alcohol at a nearby store. However, a vigilant store clerk later notices the fake ID and reports it to the police, who trace it back to Laura. As a result, Laura is charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Providing Alcohol to Minors?
In general, providing alcohol to minors is considered a misdemeanor rather than a felony. Potential consequences may include fines, community service, probation, suspension of driver’s license, or even jail time in some cases. Penalties may be more severe if the minor suffers injury or causes harm to others as a result of being furnished with alcohol.
Examples of misdemeanor cases involving providing alcohol to minors could include:
- A store clerk negligently sells alcohol to a minor who presents a fake ID that appears genuine. The clerk may face a misdemeanor charge, with potential consequences including a fine (ranging from $500 to $2,000, depending on the jurisdiction), community service, or alcohol education courses.
- A parent hosts a small gathering at their home, where they allow their teenage child and a few friends to consume alcohol. The parent may be charged with a misdemeanor, resulting in potential consequences such as a fine (usually between $1,000 and $2,500), probation, or court-mandated alcohol education programs.
- A bartender serves alcohol to a minor who appears to be of legal age but does not request identification. The bartender may be charged with a misdemeanor, with potential penalties including a fine (typically between $500 and $1,500), required attendance at alcohol education courses, community service, and possible suspension or revocation of their bartending license.
- An older sibling purchases alcohol for their younger brother or sister, who is underage, to consume at a private party. The older sibling may be charged with a misdemeanor, facing consequences such as a fine (ranging from $1,000 to $2,500), community service, probation, and possible enrollment in an alcohol awareness program.
- A college student hosts a party at their off-campus apartment and allows underage guests to consume alcohol. The student may be charged with a misdemeanor, with potential consequences including fines (typically between $1,000 and $2,500), probation, mandatory participation in an alcohol education program, and possible sanctions from their college or university, such as suspension or expulsion.
- A minor convinces an adult stranger to purchase alcohol for them by offering them money or other incentives. The adult, if caught, may face a misdemeanor charge and potential penalties, including a fine (ranging from $500 to $2,000), community service, probation, and possible enrollment in alcohol education courses.
As noted, in most cases, providing alcohol to minors is considered a misdemeanor. However, if the situation involves aggravating factors, such as significant harm or injury to the minor or others as a result of the minor’s alcohol consumption, the charges may be elevated to a felony level.
Here’s an example of a felony case:
Mike, a 24-year-old, decides to host a large party at his house. He invites several friends, many of whom are underage. Throughout the night, Mike serves alcohol to the underage attendees.
One of the minors, 19-year-old Chris, gets extremely intoxicated and decides to leave the party by driving his car. While driving under the influence, Chris loses control of his vehicle and collides with another car, causing serious injuries to the occupants of the other car.
In this case, Mike could face felony charges for furnishing alcohol to minors due to the severe consequences of his actions. The legal consequences may include significant fines (potentially exceeding $10,000), a lengthy probation period, mandatory alcohol education or treatment programs, and imprisonment (possibly up to several years, depending on the severity of the injuries and the jurisdiction’s laws).
Mike may also face civil liability for the damages and injuries caused by Chris’s accident.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Alcohol Laws?
If you are facing charges for furnishing alcohol to minors or need guidance on alcohol laws, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced business lawyer, as they can help you understand the charges, your rights, and potential defenses. Additionally, a lawyer can assist you in navigating the legal process and achieving the best possible outcome for your case.
LegalMatch is an online legal matching service that can help you find a qualified lawyer to handle your case.
By answering a few questions about your legal issue, LegalMatch can connect you with attorneys who specialize in alcohol laws and who have experience representing clients in similar situations. From there, you can review the attorney’s profile, read client reviews, and even speak with them over the phone or in person before deciding whether to hire them. This can save you time and money in finding a qualified lawyer who can assist you with your legal needs.
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