Virginia Underage Possession of Alcohol
In Virginia, it’s illegal for a person under 21-years old to possess, purchase, or consume any alcoholic beverage such as liquor, wine, and beer (Code of Virginia § 4.1-305). Our attorneys are highly experienced in defending minors and young adults charged with underage possession of alcohol in Henrico County, Hanover County, the Town of Ashland, Chesterfield County, Caroline County, the City of Richmond and the surrounding areas in Virginia.
It’s very important to choose an attorney who has experience defending Virginia underage possession of alcohol cases. A seasoned defense attorney knows, before a minor or young adult can be convicted, the prosecutor, called the commonwealth’s attorney or assistant commonwealth’s attorney, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the person charged actually possessed, consumed, or purchased an alcoholic beverage while that person was under the age of 21.
Often, police officers ask someone they suspect of underage drinking to submit to a preliminary breath test to determine the level of alcohol in that person’s breath. A small device is used by police officers to assess a person’s alcohol level at the time the sample is provided. Prosecutors in Henrico County, Hanover County, Ashland, Chesterfield County, and Richmond generally try to use the results of a preliminary breath test as evidence in underage possession of alcohol cases. Prosecutors may also be able to use statements made by the accused to the police against that person at trial. Additionally, prosecutors try to admit the labels on beer cans, liquor bottles, and wine bottles to prove they contained alcohol.
What Is the Penalty for Underage Drinking in Virginia?
A minor or young adult convicted of under 21 possession of alcohol in Virginia will have a criminal conviction. In fact, the conviction of underage possession of alcohol is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which, in Virginia, is the same level of misdemeanor conviction as a DUI/DWI. All Class 1 misdemeanors are punishable up to a year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. Can result in Jail time up to 12 months as well as loss of driving privileges and community service hours.
Whether the accused is a young adult or a minor, possession of alcohol under 21 is a serious criminal charge in Virginia and an experienced attorney should be selected to defend against these charges. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 804-355-8037
Young Adults and Underage Possession of Alcohol
Young adults (those 18- to 20-years old) charged with underage possession of alcohol are tried in general district court. A young adult convicted of underage possession or consumption of alcohol must pay at least a $500 fine or complete 50 hours of community service. Additionally, the court is required to suspend that person’s privilege to drive in Virginia for at least six months and may suspend driving privileges for one year. However, the court may grant restricted driving privileges including the ability to drive to and from places of employment, to and from medical care, to and from a place of religious worship once a week, and to and from any treatment ordered by the court as a condition of the sentence imposed.
Some young adults charged with possession of alcohol under 21 may avoid conviction, even though sufficient evidence exists to justify a conviction. A young adult who has never been convicted of underage possession of alcohol or had the charge dismissed as a first offense may have the charge dismissed again. If an attorney is able to convince the court to permit a young adult to avoid conviction, the person must enter into a treatment or educational program and successfully complete the program. Unlike a conviction, a young adult may avoid a suspension of driving privileges because the court is not required to impose a license suspension when an underage alcohol possession case is deferred.
Minors in Possession of Alcohol
Minors (those under 18-years old) charged with Virginia underage possession of alcohol are tried in juvenile court. If a court finds sufficient evidence that a minor possessed, consumed, or purchased alcohol, the court must deny the minor’s ability to drive for six months. If a minor isn’t 16-years old and three months, then the court must deny the minor’s ability to apply for a driver’s license for six months. Minors must also complete an alcohol treatment program.
It’s very important to evaluate an attorneys experience in juvenile court defending minors against underage alcohol possession charges when making a decision to hire an attorney. Juvenile courts are not required to dismiss an underage possession of alcohol charge against a minor; in fact, juvenile courts have broad powers when it comes to the punishment of minors for crimes. For example, juvenile courts may sentence a minor to a juvenile detention facility.
Virginia Code 4.1-305 Underage Possession of Alcohol
C. Any person found guilty of a violation of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor; and upon conviction, (i) such person shall be ordered to pay a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or ordered to perform a mandatory minimum of 50 hours of community service as a condition of probation supervision and (ii) the license to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of any such person age 18 or older shall be suspended for a period of not less than six months and not more than one year; the license to operate a motor vehicle in the Commonwealth of any juvenile shall be handled in accordance with the provisions of § 16.1-278.9. The court, in its discretion and upon a demonstration of hardship, may authorize an adult convicted of a violation of this section the use of a restricted permit to operate a motor vehicle in accordance with the provisions of subsection E of § 18.2-271.1 or when referred to a local community-based probation services agency established pursuant to Article 9 (§ 9.1-173 et seq.) of Chapter 1 of Title 9.1. During the period of license suspension, the court may require an adult who is issued a restricted permit under the provisions of this subsection to be (a) monitored by an alcohol safety action program, or (b) supervised by a local community-based probation services agency established pursuant to Article 9 (§ 9.1-173 et seq.) of Chapter 1 of Title 9.1, if one has been established for the locality. The alcohol safety action program or local community-based probation services agency shall report to the court any violation of the terms of the restricted permit, the required alcohol safety action program monitoring or local community-based probation services and any condition related thereto or any failure to remain alcohol-free during the suspension period.
Virginia code 4.3-306 states:
It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor to buy or give alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.
If found guilty, you could lose your driver’s license, serve jail time up to a year and pay a fine up to $2,500.
Virginia code 18.2-266.1 states:
If you are under 21 and caught driving with a blood alcohol level of .02 or more, you can be charged with DUI. If you are over 21, the legal limit is .08.
If found guilty, you could lose your driver’s license for a year, be ordered to pay a $500 fine and/or be required to perform community service.
Virginia code 4.1-309 states:
No one is allowed to possess or drink alcohol on school property.
Virginia code 22.1- 279.3:1 states:
If you are caught with alcohol in your possession or in your system at school, the law says the school staff must report it to local law enforcement. You will be charged with possession of alcohol
The Richmond-based law firm of Weiland Upton is ready to support you in your possession of Alcohol case. We serve clients who have been charged within City of Richmond and many other local jurisdictions surrounding the City of Richmond. Jurisdictions Weiland Upton serve include Brunswick, Emporia. King George Goochland County, Stafford County Henrico County, Hanover County, Chesterfield County, Prince George County, New Kent County, Spotsylvania County, Caroline County, Amelia County, Greensville County, the City of Hopewell, Sussex County, the City of Colonial Heights, the City of Petersburg, Dinwiddie County and Powhatan County.
Find out more:
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Whether the accused is a young adult or a minor, underage possession of alcohol in Virginia is a serious criminal charge. Great care should be taken in selecting an attorney to defend against such charges. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 804-355-8037