What is Underage Drinking?
Many young adults and students drink alcohol before the legal age of 21. It could be at the sandbar for a family outing, or a high school party when a friend’s parents are out of town, or even a glass of wine at dinner.
A 22-year-old sibling may take her younger brother to a college football tailgate and hand him a Truly hard seltzer or a beer. The police may be doing a lap around the tents and ask to see the younger brother’s ID. Suddenly, the 17-year-old with the hard seltzer in his hand is given a summons to appear in court on the charge of underage drinking.
“Underage drinking” is a term that popularly invokes images of teens gathered around the proverbial keg, but legally the term also encompasses what most parents would consider innocent transgressions. These instances include beer sips at dinner or one cocktail while on vacation. If you have a teen who’s been caught drinking and/or using a fake ID, you may be wondering what happens next.
What are My Options if my Child has Been Caught Underage Drinking?
While Florida’s laws are harsh for underage minors that are caught with alcohol, many counties offer an Underage Drinking Diversion Program, an online course for first time offenders that helps minors avoid criminal prosecution. If completed successfully, the court will dismiss your child’s criminal charge and eliminate the offense from their record.
What Can I Expect if My Minor has Been Caught Drinking?
Under Florida law, a child that is caught consuming, holding, or attempting to gain access to a bar will be charged with a misdemeanor. First-time offenders receive a second-degree misdemeanor punishable up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, and multiple offenses receive a first-degree misdemeanor punishable up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
What about if my Minor Gave the Police a Fake ID?
If the minor provides a fake ID to law enforcement to appear above 21 years old, the police are likely to “run” the license and learn it is invalid. In this scenario, the minor will be charged with underage drinking as well as using a counterfeit driver’s license. This violation is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and $5,000 fine.
What is a Drinking Diversion Court Program?
The state is acutely aware that Florida is a hotspot for Spring Breakers and partiers, offering beaches, year-round nice weather, and tourist traps that tempt minors to consume alcohol. For this, many counties offer Drinking Diversion Court Programs to protect minors from the impact of a criminal record.
Diversion Programs are available for the following offenses:
- Possession of Alcoholic Beverages by Persons Under Age 21, Florida Statute § 562.111
- Possession of a False Driver License or Identification Card, Florida Statute § 322.212
Who is Eligible for a Drinking Diversion Court Program?
Eligibility varies by county. Regardless of eligibility, it is imperative that a good case is pleaded by the minor’s representation, because entry into the program is not guaranteed. Generally:
- Person must be under 21 years of age
- The facts of the case must involve alcohol consumption, possession, or attempt to gain access to alcohol
- In some counties, the person must not have participated in a prior diversion program
- In other counties, the person must not have participated in a prior diversion program within the last six months
What can Adams & Luka do for You?
If your child is caught consuming, possessing, or attempting to gain access to alcohol before the age of 21, call Adams & Luka to learn more about how to get your child into a diversion program, get the charges dismissed, and remove the incident from your child’s record.