College is a time of exploration, education, and entertainment. However, because half of the student body is made up of students over the age of 21, alcohol is widely available to underage students at virtually every college in the country. Underage drinking is a major problem in the United States and is linked to various health and safety concerns due to phenomenons such as binge drinking and reckless drinking.
Because the law does not allow Americans to drink until they are 21-years-old, teenagers and college students can and will be charged with underage drinking should they be caught with alcohol. Most states have PAULA laws, possession of alcohol under the legal age, which are also known as MIP laws, or minors in possession.
Legal Consequences of Underage Drinking
While in some states, underage drinking is allowed if it's done under a parent or guardian's supervision, the majority of states do not allow it. In fact, parents may even be held accountable for their child's drinking.
The consequences of underage drinking can be anywhere between minor misdemeanors to serious felonies. In comparison to other juvenile crimes, underage drinking is often strictly punished due to the fact that many of those who break the law are over the age of 18 and are therefore adults.
Some consequences of underage drinking charges include:
- Community service
- Required counseling classes
- Driver's license suspension
- Jail time
A college may have differing or additional punishments for their students should they be caught with alcohol including counseling classes, AA meetings, classes on alcohol consumption and its dangers, and in some cases expulsion.
Are Parents Held Accountable For Their Child's Drinking Under the Law?
Depending on the state, the parents may not be held liable for their child's underage drinking if it's technically legal for them to drink under their supervision. However, in most states parents and other adults can be imposed with a criminal charge of selling or serving alcohol to minors. The criminal charge becomes worse if the adult knowingly allows the minor to consume alcohol while on their property or if the minor becomes injured as a result of drinking alcohol on their property.
Should I Hire an Attorney?
If you've been charged with underage drinking, underage possession of alcohol, or drunk driving, it's essential for you to hire an attorney as soon as possible. According to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, public defenders often handle impossible caseloads. A typical public defender would need 3,035 work hours, or about 1.5 years, to complete a year's worth of work. As a result, hiring criminal defense attorneys is a prudent decision after any criminal charge.
This is especially true if you're facing consequences for underage drinking, which could impact your education and career before they even begin. With repeat offenses, the consequences may be even more severe. Therefore, seeking a defense attorney from a criminal law firm may do you significant good. A criminal charge does not have to derail your life, and you deserve the best legal representation you can find.
For legal aid in the case of underage drinking in Harrisonburg, VA, contact the law offices of John Elledge.