In California, like in other states, the minimum legal drinking age is 21 years. People under age 21 who are drinking, possessing alcohol, or trying to purchase alcohol may find themselves facing a criminal charge and a harsh driver’s license suspension.
Like other alcohol-related convictions, a minor in possession conviction comes with strict penalties. The potential penalties include:
- Up to $250 in fines for a first offense and up to $500 in fines for a second offense,
- Up to 32 hours of community service for a first offense and up to 48 hours of community service for a second offense. When possible, community service is often served in an alcohol or drug treatment program or at a county coroner’s office.
- Surrender and one year suspension of driver’s license
Vehicle Code section 13202.5(a) states:
“For each conviction of a person for an offense specified in subdivision (d), committed while the person was under the age of 21 years, but 13 years of age or older, the court shall suspend the person’s driving privilege for one year. If the person convicted does not yet have the privilege to drive, the court shall order the department to delay issuing the privilege to drive for one year subsequent to the time the person becomes legally eligible to drive. However, if there is no further conviction for an offense specified in subdivision (d) in a 12-month period after the conviction, the court, upon petition of the person affected, may modify the order imposing the delay of the privilege. For each successive offense, the court shall suspend the person’s driving privilege for those possessing a license or delay the eligibility for those not in possession of a license at the time of their conviction for one additional year.
The court may require only a fine, only community service, or some combination of fines and community service. Because the specific penalty following a minor in possession conviction can also result in losing your driving privilege for a year, having an experienced attorney to argue on your behalf can be invaluable.
Many minor in possession charges follow a night of partying or other excitement in which the events that led to the charge are confusing or difficult to remember. Your attorney can help you sort out what really happened and ensure that your voice is heard in court.
If you’re facing charges of being a minor in possession of alcohol, or if you are an adult charged with providing alcohol to minors, don’t wait. An experienced Long Beach defense attorney can help you protect your legal rights and fight for the best possible outcome in your case.