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It is illegal in America for anyone under the age of 21 to drink alcohol, whether they buy the liquor themselves or another person gives it to them. Penalties vary widely by state, but every state prohibits anyone from providing alcohol to an underage person.
What Constitutes Supplying Alcohol to Minors?
Legally speaking, supplying alcohol to a minor is not simply handing an underage person an alcoholic beverage. Numerous actions legally constitute "supplying" in this context. For example, placing alcohol in the vicinity of a minor, with the intent that that minor will consume said beverage, represents supplying alcohol to a minor. Even having alcohol in the home without restricting its access may be construed as supplying.
However, supplying does require that the supplier knowingly provide the alcohol. Meaning, the defendant must have intended that the minor acquired alcohol due to his or her actions. The mere presence of alcohol with minors on the property does not constitute supplying alcohol to minors. In other words, a party on your property with underage people present does not constitute knowingly supplying alcohol unless you provided it with the express purpose that underage people would consume it.
These laws also apply to another underage person supplying alcohol to other underage people.
Can I Supply Alcohol to My Own Children In My Home?
Some states do allow parents or legal guardians to supply alcohol to a minor in a home environment, or if the alcohol is intended for religious or medical reasons. In all instances, the parent or guardian (or a person acting in loco parentis) must be present and supervising the activity.
Not all states recognize this exception. Ask your lawyer about exceptions in your state.
What are the Penalties for Supplying Alcohol to Minors?
Most states classify supplying alcohol to minors as a misdemeanor, though some consider it a felony. Additionally, the offense becomes a felony under certain circumstances. For instance, if someone dies or suffers serious injury, a felony charge is likely. Repeat offenses may also result in a felony charge.
Can I Go To Jail For Supplying Alcohol to Minors?
In most states, misdemeanor convictions earn a maximum sentence of one year in local jail, though this sentence is rare. Sentences of 30 to 90 days are most common. A felony conviction, however, often receives a 12-month sentence, possibly extending to five years, depending on the state, the judge, and the circumstances.
What are the Monetary Penalties?
Monetary penalties constitute fines and legal fees. Both depend on the state and the circumstances of the incident. In a misdemeanor charge, common fines are between $500 and $1,000, but may extend to $5,000. Fines are much higher for a felony conviction and may exceed $50,000.
Legal fees include court costs and typically range between $100 and $200.
Will I Recieve Probation for Supplying Alcohol to Minors?
First time offenders convicted of supplying alcohol to minors most often receive probation, typically for 12 months. Probation requires you to perform certain actions, such as regular meetings with a probation officer.
Penalties for Businesses
A business or organization convicted of supplying alcohol to minors faces administrative penalties, such as additional fines and fees. The business may also have its liquor license suspended or revoked depending on the circumstances.
Penalties in California
People in California who are convicted of selling alcohol to minors receive a maximum fine of $1,000 and a minimum of 24 hours of community service. Additionally, if the minor in question caused bodily harm or death to him- or herself or another, a conviction results in six to 12 months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. California prosecutors may charge you with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, either in lieu of or in addition to the supplying alcohol charge. This conviction receives a maximum 12-month sentence and a $2,500 fine.
Penalties in Illinois
Illinois classifies supplying alcohol to minors as a Class A misdemeanor, with a maximum jail sentence of one year and fines between $500 and $2,500. If the convicted entity is a business, it may also be fined and have its liquor license suspended or revoked.
Penalties in Texas
Supplying alcohol to minors is a Class A felony in Texas, with a possible sentence of one year in jail, fines of up to $4,000, and 180-day suspension of driving privileges. If the defendant is over 21 and knowingly provided alcohol to a minor under 18 years of age, the defendant is also liable for any damages said minor caused.