The Risks of Buying Alcohol Underage
1. It’s obviously against the law to try to buy alcohol using a fake ID. That said, you’re far more likely to be charged for possessing alcohol than trying to buy it.
2. You don’t have to be breaking the law for a police officer to stop your car. As long as the officer has reasonable suspicion of criminal activity they can pull you over.
3. If you’re under age and there’s alcohol in the car, you can be charged as a minor in possession of alcohol. It doesn’t matter whether you’re driving, how many people are in the car, or whether its even your car.
What the Laws in Alabama Say
1. Most cities have ordinances that adopt the state’s minor in possession statutes. For instance, section 3-44 of Tuscaloosa’s municipal code specifically adopts Section 28-1-5 of the Alabama Code: “It shall be unlawful for any person under twenty-one (21) years of age to possess, consume, purchase, or attempt to purchase, any alcoholic beverage…”
2. Alabama has two different statutory sections dealing with minors in possession of alcohol. In addition to 28-1-5 (mentioned above), there’s also 28-3A-25. The second statute carries with it the mandatory punishment of the defendant losing their license for at least 3 months. In addition, the possible jail sentence goes from a maximum of 30 days to 3 months. In other words, while neither one is preferable, you’re far better off getting charged under the first one than the second one.
Tips for Dealing with a Minor in Possession Charge
1. Whether a person is charged and and what they’re charged with fall under the discretion of the arresting officer. If the officer senses that you are being respectful, he’s far more likely to give you an easier time. So, if you feel that a law enforcement officer has treated you unfairly, keep two things in mind. First, you’re almost always better off taking the issue up with a lawyer as opposed to the acting officer. Second, you will never be worse off for having treated the acting officer with respect.
2. The officer usually also has the choice about whether to take someone into custody. A person who appears to be intoxicated or uncooperative is far more likely to get arrested as opposed to being given a citation.
3. Minor in possession charges are often eligible for diversion, meaning that upon completion of classes and payment of court costs, the charges are dismissed. Diversion is a costly and timely process (usually up to a few months and several hundred dollars). In addition, the charges themselves will stay on your record (they will be eligible for expungement). Even so, it is undoubtedly preferable to a conviction.
4. Just because you’ve been charged with an MIP doesn’t mean that all of the damage has already been done. If you find yourself facing legal charges, seek legal counsel. You may not actually end up needing to hire a lawyer but you should at least know your options. Come talk to one for free. We have student walk-ins from 10 to 2 on Fridays. Free consultation, no appointment necessary.