It is an all-too common occurrence in criminal defense today. Minors in possession or consuming alcohol lead to harmful consequences while consuming and in their futures lives. Studies have shown that if a person starts drinking under the age of 15, they are five times more likely to develop alcohol dependency in their life than a person who started drinking at the age of 21. In the United States alone, nearly 5,000 citizens under the age of 21 die every year due to alcohol consumption. Law enforcement can only do so much to keep alcohol out of minors’ hands. But sometimes, their efforts punish those innocent of the charges and an unlawful arrest can present unintended consequences. These consequences can prevent them from attending college, getting a good job, or even lose their driver’s license.
South Carolina Code § 20-7-8925 states that the first offense of a person under the age of 21 possessing, consuming, purchasing or attempting to purchase beer, wine, or liquor results in a fine of between $100 to $200 or imprisonment of up to 30 days. If there is a second or subsequent offense, the offender faces suspension of their driver’s license for six months and a fine between $100 to $200 and imprisonment of up to 30 days. The offender is also at risk of losing educational scholarships provided by the South Carolina, such as the LIFE Scholarship or Palmetto Fellows. In addition, they may face discipline and/or expulsion from their school.
Often related to the above possession and/or consumption is the use of a false or altered identification (ID) card. S.C Code § 56-1-515(2) states that a person who uses someone else’s driver’s license or identification card can face up to $100 in fines or 30 days imprisonment and a 3-month suspension of their driver’s license. The penalty for second or subsequent offense is up to $100 fine or 30 days imprisonment, and a driver’s license suspension of 6 months.
S.C. Code § 56-1-515(1) states that if one uses a driver’s license that is altered so that it contained false information, then the fine is up to $2,500 and six months’ imprisonment, including a 3-month driver’s license suspension.
Equally as important as preventing minors from possessing alcohol, there is a great need to prevent adults from providing alcohol to minors. If an adult provides alcohol to a minor, S.C. Code § 61-6-4070(1) states the penalty for this violation is a fine of $200 to $300 and up to 30 days in jail, or both.
However, there are exceptions to these statutes. The exceptions are for minors provided alcohol by their parents in their parents’ home, a minor spouse provided alcohol by their spouse who is of legal drinking age, a minor’s consumption of alcohol during religious ceremonies, and a minor consuming alcohol as part of a hospitality, culinary, or other related educational course. Minors are also permitted to serve alcohol in a restaurant (in the capacity as a server or waiter), but they are not permitted to mix liquors or serve as bartenders.
Keeping alcohol out of minor’s hands is an important job of law enforcement and adults of drinking age. Unfortunately, the laws are not always enforced in a manner that is fair to all present. Often times, the arresting officer assumed all minors present in a situation are in possession or consumption of alcohol and this leads to improper or unlawful legal action against a minor.
It is important to speak with an attorney if you or someone you know has received a ticket for either minor in possession (MIP), minor consuming alcohol, or providing alcohol to minors. One offense can lead to a lifetime of consequences, and we here at Chase Harbin, Attorney at Law are ready to protect your rights. Our experienced staff knows the law and is ready to defend you. Call us today for a free consultation of your case.