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Minor in Possession: What is it and What's the Law?

Posted by Terry A. Wapner | Jan 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

There are a variety of offenses that a juvenile can get charged with in Fresno and the rest of California. It is important to be aware of these laws and how being convicted of one of these offenses could affect your future.

One common offense that minors should be aware of is Minor in Possession. Under California state law, it is illegal for a minor to be in possession of an alcoholic beverage. To be clear, a minor is considered to be any person under the age of 21.

The law states that any person under the age of 21 who has any alcoholic beverage in his or her possession on any street or highway or in an public place is guilty of a misdemeanor. Here, the penalty for a first offense is a fine for $250 or perform between 24-32 hours of community service.

If this is your second or subsequent offense, you are facing another misdemeanor. But this time, the penalties will be harsher. The fine is now $500 or perform between 36-48 hours or community service. Keep in mind that the court has discretion here and can implement a penalty that includes both a fine and some community service.

As far as the community service aspect, the Legislature had certain intentions when drafting this law. The Legislature intended that the community service be carried out at an alcohol or drug treatment facility or at a county coroner's office. Further, it is preferable if there is a community service opportunity in the area where the minor lives or the violation occurred.

One big exception to this law is that a minor will have a complete defense if he was following the reasonable instructions of his parent, responsible adult relative, or any other adult designated by the parent or legal guardian, or adult designee relating to disposition of the alcoholic beverage.

If an officer has lawfully entered a premises, he may seize any alcoholic beverages in plain view that is in the possession of, or provided to, a person under the age of 21 at social gatherings. This is  true when those gatherings are open to the public, ten or more people under the age of 21 are participating, persons under the age of 21 are drinking alcohol, and there is no supervision of the gathering by a parent or guardian of one or more of the minors.

In this case, the officer is allowed to destroy alcohol that was in open containers. Other alcohol will be seized and impounded. The impounded alcohol will also be destroyed if, after seven business days, no lawful owner (21 or over) has requested its release.

However, a minor will be immune from criminal prosecution in certain situations. California law says that a minor will be immune if:

  • He has called 911 and reported that he or another person was in need of medical assistance because of alcohol consumption;
  • He was the first person to make the 911 report; and
  • He remained on the scene after making the call until medical help arrived.

DUI and other alcohol-related charges can be difficult to deal with. If you have been arrested for DUI in Fresno or the surrounding areas, give my office a call today!

About the Author

Terry A. Wapner

Terry A. Wapner confines his practice to the defense of persons accused of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, and related crimes.

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