Underage Consumption of Alcohol
Although underage consumption of alcohol is illegal in Arizona, minors under the age of 21 regularly drink alcohol at parties. This is especially the case in Phoenix—home of Arizona State University, one of the largest colleges in the country. However, the fact that underage drinking is so common can make it easy to forget that it’s a crime. And a conviction for underage consumption of alcohol can not only mar your criminal record, but it can also create problems at school, at work, and at home. At the Law Office of James E. Novak, we have extensive experience representing minors charged with alcohol offenses, including underage consumption of alcohol, under 21 DUI, and minor in possession of alcohol. With our help, you can ensure that your arrest has as little impact on your future as possible.What Are Arizona’s Underage Drinking Laws?
Arizona, like every other state in the country, prohibits minors from consuming alcoholic beverages. Arizona Revised Statutes § 4-244(41) makes it illegal “for a person who is under twenty-one years of age to have in the person's body any spirituous liquor.” When the law refers to “spiritous liquor,” it means any drink that contains more than a trace amount of alcohol, including beer, wine, cocktails, hard cider, hard seltzer, or shots.Are Minors Ever Allowed to Drink Alcohol?
Technically, there are two very narrow exceptions that permit a minor to consume alcohol. First, a minor is permitted to consume alcohol in connection with a legitimate religious belief. Second, minors are not prohibited from drinking alcohol that is for a legitimate medical purpose. However, in either case, the exception only applies if the minor is consuming alcohol in a manner that is not dangerous to public health or safety. There is not an exception, however, for minors who are consuming alcohol in the presence of their parents or with their parent’s permission.What Are the Punishments for Underage Consumption of Alcohol?
Underage consumption of alcohol is classified as a Class 2 misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $750 and up to four months in jail. However, in practice, police officers often issue minors a citation rather than making an arrest. However, this doesn’t mean that being cited is the same as a traffic ticket—underage drinking is a crime, and if you pay the citation, it will end up on your criminal record.
Often, prosecutors will offer first-time offenders the chance to participate in a diversionary program. In a diversionary program, you must pay a fine, attend classes about alcohol or substance abuse, and stay out of trouble. If you successfully complete the diversionary program, the case will essentially be dismissed and will not end up on your criminal record.Do You Have to Pay an Underage Drinking Citation?
While you cannot ignore an underage drinking ticket, you do not need to pay the fine without a fight. In fact, if you pay a citation, you are essentially pleading guilty to a crime, and it will have a lasting impact on your criminal record. There are, however, defenses to underage consumption of alcohol offenses that can end with the prosecution withdrawing the case or being acquitted of the charges. An experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney can familiarize you with all possible defenses and work with you to determine which is the best fit for your case.Are You Facing an Upcoming Court Date for Underage Consumption of Alcohol?
If you were arrested for being a minor in possession of alcohol or the underage consumption of alcohol, Attorney Novak can help. With more than 25 years of hands-on experience handling all types of alcohol-related offenses—including baby DUIs and underage consumption offenses—we do everything possible to ensure that your recent arrest doesn’t impact your future any more than it already has. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Novak today, call 480-413-1499.