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Underage Drinking in Florida – Law and Consequences

Parents of teenagers often grapple with the issue of teen drinking.  How many times have you heard parents say any of these:

  • “It’s just a beer.”
  • “Kids will be kids.”
  • “I drank when I was young and I turned out fine.”
  • “I’d rather have my kids drinking at my house than out in public somewhere.”

Maybe you yourself have said something similar.  The fact is, if an under-21-year-old in Florida is even holding a beer, she is breaking the law.  If she is in your house and you know about it, you are breaking the law – even if she’s your child.  Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your children from the legal consequences of underage drinking.

Florida law on teens and alcohol

Florida’s drinking age is 21.  Anyone under that age is legally prohibited from possessing or purchasing alcohol.  A first-time offense is a second-degree misdemeanor, with penalties including a fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail.  A further offense is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to a year of jail time.  (Oddly, however, Florida law expressly permits a person over 18 to taste alcohol if it is part of the person’s curriculum as a student at an accredited college.)

Possessing or using a fake ID is also illegal.  Depending on how the ID has been tampered with, the crime may be a misdemeanor or a felony.  Additionally, if a driver under 21 is pulled over and is shown to have a blood alcohol content of .02 or higher, Florida’s zero tolerance law applies, and the driver forfeits his license for six months.

Adult liability for teen drinking

In some states, it is legal for parents to permit their underage children to drink alcohol under parental supervision at home.  Not so in Florida.  It is a violation of law if you know that an underage person at a social gathering at your home is in possession of alcohol and you fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or consumption of that alcohol – even if the underage person is your child.  The only exception is for alcohol used as part of a legally-protected religious observance.  If you are charged with this crime, you may face a fine or potential jail time. If a teen consumes alcohol at your home and then injures himself or someone else (for example, has a car accident while driving home), you can also face criminal liability, as well as civil liability for any damages or harm caused.

Consult an Orlando juvenile offenses lawyer

Sometimes our children get into trouble despite our best efforts to protect them.  If that happens, you and your child need an experienced, dedicated lawyer to represent your best interests with law enforcement and the courts.  The skilled juvenile offenses lawyers of The Baez Law Firm can help you and your family navigate the juvenile court system while protecting your rights as parent as well as your child’s. If you are in Miami, Orlando, Tampa, or anywhere else in Florida, contact The Baez Law Firm for a consultation about your case today.

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