Most people don’t need to be told that it’s a crime to give alcohol to someone under 21, but what you might not know is that doing so could even land you in jail. The good news is that most of the time, furnishing alcohol to a minor is only an infraction punishable by a fine in California.
Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor is Usually an Infraction
You might have assumed that providing alcohol to a minor is really just an infraction, but it is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to $1000 in fines and 24 hours of community service. But since you never know what will happen when you buy a teen alcohol, consider that doing so could potentially result in great bodily injury or death for either the teen or someone else.
If great bodily injury or death occurs as a result of your furnishing alcohol to a minor, you can face much more serious charges. It doesn’t matter if a teen drinks so much they get alcohol poisoning or if they kill someone in a DUI crash, the person who provided the alcohol can be subjected to up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine.
Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor
Even if nothing happens, prosecutors can always choose to charge anyone who provides alcohol to a minor with contributing to the delinquency of a minor under California Penal Code 272 (PC). This crime could result in up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500.
Furnishing Marijuana to a Minor
Selling or freely giving marijuana to a minor under 21 is always a felony under California Health and Safety Code 11361 (H&S). There is an exception for those under 21 who possess a valid medical marijuana license. The maximum penalty for this offense is typically 5 years, but if the juvenile is under 14 years old, the penalty is 7 years.
Giving Cigarettes to Minors
Selling or providing tobacco, including vapes and e-cigarettes, to someone under 21 may be prosecuted civilly or criminally with increasing fines for each offense. While cigarettes are available for sale to 18-year-olds in most states, California has raised the age of tobacco sales to 21 —though there is an exception for military personnel between 18 and 21.
Social Hosting Laws in California
Even if you did not provide the alcohol, but willingly allowed minors to drink or use drugs in your home, you could violate local social hosting ordinances. These crimes are not statewide offenses but local codes prohibiting minors from consuming alcohol or marijuana at a party. Under San Diego’s social hosting ordinance, first-time offenders are subject to a fine of up to $1000 and up to 6 months in jail. Second and subsequent offenses are punishable by up to $2,000 in fines and 6 months of jail time. You can also be forced to pay for the services of law enforcement agents who processed the arrest.
The only way to avoid trouble for hosting a party where minors consume marijuana or alcohol is to ask the minors to stop or call the local police or Sheriff’s Department if they refuse. Anyone over 18 can be charged with these crimes, even if they are not of legal drinking age yet; however, there is an exception for parents who allow their own child to drink in their residence.
Charges the Minors May Face
The same California Business and Professions Code that prohibits giving minors alcohol 25658 (BPC) also makes it a crime for underage persons to buy alcohol. Anyone under 21 years of age who is caught buying alcohol can receive a $250 fine, up to 32 hours of community service, and a one-year driver’s license suspension.
Even just being a minor in possession of an alcoholic beverage can result in similar penalties under California Business and Professions Code section 25662 (BPC). In addition, those under 21 caught drunk driving will need to contact a DUI attorney immediately as they may be subject to serious criminal charges, including fines, mandatory DUI classes, and a DMV license suspension.
If you have been accused of giving alcohol to a minor, providing a home for minors to drink or use drugs, or if you are a juvenile arrested for possession of alcoholic beverages or driving under the influence, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter Liss.