Minor in Possession of Alcohol
In Arizona, the legal drinking age is 21. And under state law, it’s a crime for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol or have any amount of alcohol in their possession. While a drinking ticket may not initially appear to be serious, a conviction for minor in possession of alcohol can have a lasting impact on your future. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, our Tempe criminal defense lawyer has more than two decades of experience helping minors avoid a criminal record.Arizona’s Underage Drinking Laws
The Arizona minor in possession law is contained in Arizona Revised Statute § 4-244(9). This statute covers two situations related to underage drinking:
- Adults who help minors purchase or obtain alcohol, and
- Minors under the age of 21 who buy, receive, have in their possession or consume alcohol.
Under A.R.S. § 4-246, either of these offenses are Class 1 misdemeanors. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail. In addition, the judge can order a minor to pay a fine of up to $750 and require them to take alcohol counseling.
Of course, in many cases, judges are not interested in incarcerating teens who drink, buy or consume alcohol. However, that doesn’t mean that these crimes should be taken lightly. Judges may place minors on a lengthy term of probation. In fact, judges can sentence you to up to three years of probation following a conviction for minor in possession of alcohol. Not only is probation incredibly burdensome if you are working or going to school, but it means that you will need to be on your best behavior because violating any term of your probation could land you in jail.
Aside from the criminal punishments that come along with a minor in possession of alcohol conviction, there are also collateral consequences that will stem from the conviction, which may include any of the following:
- Loss of scholarships, grants, or financial aid;
- Being fired from your job; and
- Being kicked out of school.
Additionally, when asked by future employers or landlords, you may need to disclose the fact that you were convicted of a crime. Thus, a conviction can limit your present and future educational and professional opportunities.Defenses to Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charges
While prosecutors are often willing to negotiate with a Tempe criminal defense attorney, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, prosecutors want to make an example out of you. In these cases, it is important you understand what defenses are available to you. Perhaps the most common defense is that you didn’t actually “possess” alcohol even though you were around others who did.
Minor in possession charges are often the result of police showing up at a college party and arresting everyone who is present. However, in doing so, officers often cast too wide a net. It is common for people to attend a party and not drink, and proving that you were in possession of alcohol can be challenging for the government. An experienced Tempe underage drinking lawyer can help determine the best way to defend against the charges you face.Have You Been Arrested for Underage Drinking?
If you are facing charges related to being a minor in possession of alcohol, don’t assume that your case has to end in a guilty verdict or a plea bargain. You have options, and at the Law Office of James E. Novak, we can help you determine which is the best in your case. Attorney James Novak has more than 20 years of experience helping his clients avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction and looks forward to seeing what he can do for you. We also represent clients in underage DUI cases and other traffic violations. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.