Articles Posted in Minor in Possession of Alcohol

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I got a call today from a parent whose child was charged with minor in possession of alcohol in the City of Atlanta Municipal Court. He was driving his parents car. There was a passenger, also under 21, in the car and they were pulled over by the police. The passenger admitted drinking one beer and there was one empty beer can on the floor. He was arrested. The driver said he did not drink anything, took field sobriety tests and took a breath test and tested 0.00. He was still arrested and charged with minor in possession of alcohol because he admitted drinking 1 beer earlier in the evening. Had he invoked his right to remain silent, he would not have been charged with a crime.

In the state of Georgia this is a very common situation. If you are under the age of 21, it’s illegal to possess alcohol. There are however several exceptions to the law such as if you’re at home, your parents provide the alcohol and they supervise you. There is also an exception for religious services.

A minor in possession charge can result in a license suspension in certain factual scenarios. There are also Georgia statutes which can be used to get your case dismissed. The majority of clients that I represent who are charged with minor in possession that have not been in trouble before end up with their charges being dismissed and their arrest being expunged/restricted.

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Another city in Cobb County Georgia has passed a law that targets parents and adults who let individuals under the age of 21 consume alcohol. These types of laws are sometimes called “teen party ordinances” or “social host ordinances.”

The city of Kennesaw in Cobb county Georgia passed a law last week which makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail or a $300.00 fine in addition to possible civil penalties. The City of Austell in Cobb County Georgia has a similar ordinance. Municipalities and counties in 24 other states have passed similar ordinances.

The law targets parents and adults who knowingly allow individuals under 21 to consume alcohol at their home, but does not punish them in situations where individuals under 21 hold secret drinking parties or when the parents are out of town or out for the evening. The law also applies to older siblings, landlords and tenants who host underage drinking parties.

Interestingly, There are situations in which a parent or guardian can legally furnish alcohol to a child under the age of 21. O.C.G.A. section 3-3-23(c) allows individuals under the age of 21 to possess and consume alcoholic beverages when the parent or guardian gives the alcohol to the individual in the home of the parent or guardian and the parent or guardian is present. The two other exceptions that allow individuals under the age of 21 to consume alcohol is when the consumption is at a religious ceremony or when it is consumed for medical purposes and the alcohol is legally prescribed by a physician authorized to practice medicine in the State of Georgia.

Otherwise, furnishing to, purchase of, or possession by persons under the age of 21 of alcoholic beverages is a misdemeanor generally punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $300.00 fine or both. Using a fake I.D. is punishable by the same penalties.

There are many things an attorney can do to minimize the damage when representing individuals charged with this type of crime. Always consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney BEFORE you go to court.
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