It’s no secret that South Florida is a party town. Between its idyllic beaches, recreational boating culture, vibrant nightlife, cultural and sporting events, and dozens of colleges and universities, it is certainly a fun area to live and play. Unfortunately, underage drinking is rampant. The police in South Florida take this problem very seriously and frequently make arrests for underage possession of alcohol.
What is the law regarding underage possession of alcohol in Florida?
Pursuant to the Florida Statutes §562.111(1), it is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 to be in possession of alcohol in Florida. It is important to understand that violation of this law only requires mere possession, not the actual drinking or consumption of alcohol.
Accordingly, if you are under the age of 21, simply holding an unopened alcoholic beverage is enough to be found in violation of this law.
Are there any exceptions to Florida’s underage possession of alcohol law?
There are two exceptions to Florida’s underage possession of alcohol law:
- Pursuant to the Florida Statutes §562.111(1), the law prohibiting the possession of alcohol by a person under 21 does not apply to “the employment of any person 18 years of age or older in the sale, preparation, or service of alcoholic beverages in licensed premises in any establishment licensed by the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco or the Division of Hotels and Restaurants.”
- Pursuant to the Florida Statutes §562.111(2), the law prohibiting the possession of alcohol by person under 21 does not apply to “the tasting of alcoholic beverages by a student who is at least 18 years of age, who is tasting the alcoholic beverages as part of the student’s required curriculum at a postsecondary educational institution that is institutionally accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education and that is licensed or exempt from licensure pursuant to the provisions of chapter 1005 or is a public postsecondary education institution.”
It is also important to note that unlike some other states, Florida law does not allows parents to authorize their children under the age of 21 to possess or drink alcohol when under their supervision.
What are the penalties for violating Florida’s underage possession of alcohol law?
For a first offense, underage possession of alcohol is a second degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 60 days imprisonment and a fine up to $500. For a second offense, underage possession of alcohol is elevated to a first degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 12 months in prison and up to a $1000 fine. In addition, if a person under the age of 18 is convicted of underage possession of alcohol, the court will direct the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle to revoke or withhold issuance of that person’s driver’s license for a period between six months and one year for the first violation and two years, for a subsequent violation.
If you are convicted for underage possession of alcohol in Florida, you will have a permanent criminal record that may hinder your future educational and employment opportunities.
What should you do if you or your child is charged with underage possession of alcohol in South Florida?
If you or your child has been charged with underage possession of alcohol in South Florida, then it is in your best interests to consult with a Miami criminal defense lawyer or a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer who has experience defending clients against such charges. Under no circumstances should you plead guilty to an underage possession of alcohol charge without speaking to a Miami criminal defense attorney or Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney first. You only have a short window of time to find suitable legal representation, so it is imperative that you act fast. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Yale L. Galanter, P.A. offer the best chance at reducing the penalties for an underage possession of alcohol charge or in the best case scenario, having the charge dropped altogether.
For more information or to set up your free consultation, contact us by email at email@example.com or call us at anytime day or night at 305-576-0244 or 954-524-6600.
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Don’t delay. You need to contact an experienced South Florida attorney, today.