Known for its sunny weather, idyllic beaches, and vibrant nightlife, Clearwater is a popular holiday destination, particularly among young people. Unfortunately, what many people don’t realize are the laws surrounding underage drinking and the seriousness of the penalties and charges you may face if caught in possession of alcohol.
If you are under the age of 21 and caught in possession of alcohol in Clearwater, or indeed anywhere within the United States, then you could end up facing serious and potentially life-changing penalties. Underage possession of alcohol is usually classed as a second-degree misdemeanor and can result in large fines, a permanent criminal record, and even probation or time behind bars.
At The Law Place, we understand how daunting facing criminal charges can be, particularly for a young person who still has their whole future ahead of them. By seeking the help of a criminal defense attorney, they will be able to investigate your case and the charges you may be facing. A skilled attorney will work to build a strong defense and fight for your rights to ensure you receive the best possible outcome.
At our Clearwater offices, our phone lines are always open, so you can contact us whenever you need it, and we will be on hand to help you. Contact us today at (727) 217-9795, and receive a free consultation with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
Definition of Underage Possession of Alcohol
Florida Statute 562.111 sets out the laws for the underage possession of alcohol in Clearwater, FL., and states that it is against the law for any person under the age of 21 to be in possession of alcohol. Possession can be either ‘actual’ or ‘constructive.’
‘Actual possession’ means that the person under the age of 21 is in actual possession of alcohol. ‘Constructive possession’ applies when the possession of alcohol is alleged. This means that a minor may not have possession of alcohol in their hands, but they are in the presence of alcoholic substances and have control over it.
There are other important facts that are useful to know about the possession of alcohol in Clearwater and the rest of Florida, such as:
- The legal age to consume alcohol is 21.
- Under no circumstances are parents or relatives allowed to legally serve their children alcohol anywhere, not even in their own homes.
- It is illegal to make and use a fake ID to purchase alcohol.
- It is illegal for anyone to serve or sell alcohol to a minor. This is also charged as a second-degree misdemeanor and can be punishable with a fine and up to 60 days behind bars.
- Employees that are under the age of 18 and working in an establishment, such as a restaurant, are unable to serve or sell alcohol to others.
- Employees that are over the age of 18 and working in an establishment, such as a restaurant, are allowed to serve and sell alcohol in accordance with the law, but they are still unable to consume it.
What Are the Penalties for the Underage Possession of Alcohol in Clearwater?
If a minor, juvenile, or person under the age of 21 is caught in possession of alcohol in Clearwater or anywhere in Florida, then they will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties for a second-degree misdemeanor can include the following:
- Up to $500 in fines.
- Up to six months on probation.
- Up to 60 days in jail.
- A permanent criminal record.
In the event that someone under 21 years old is caught in possession of alcohol for a second or third time, then it is within the officer’s right to charge them with a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties received for a first-degree misdemeanor are much greater and can include:
- A fine of up to $1000.
- Up to 12 months on probation.
- Up to a year in jail.
- A permanent criminal record.
In addition to penalties, it is worthwhile noting that in accordance with Florida Statute 322.055 and Florida Statute 322.056, any minor that is convicted of being in possession of alcohol may lose their driver’s license for between 6 and 12 months. Again, if a person is found to re-offend, then the penalties are elevated, and they may lose their driver’s license for up to two years.
Additional Consequences for the Underage Possession of Alcohol in Clearwater
If you are charged with underage possession of alcohol in Clearwater, then you will receive a permanent criminal record. Whilst this may sound relatively minor in comparison to jail time or hefty fines, a criminal record can have negative ramifications on the rest of your life and may affect your ability to do certain things. A criminal record may cause:
- Difficulty in applying or continuing education.
- Difficulty finding or securing employment.
- Difficulty in applying for various types of finance, such as an overdraft.
- Difficulty in applying for mortgages, loans, or rent agreements.
- Difficulty seeking certain licenses.
- Difficulty seeking visitation or custody rights to see your children.
If you are a minor caught in possession of alcohol in Clearwater, then it is important to remember that you still have your whole life ahead of you. You don’t want to let one mistake affect the rest of your life, which is why you should seek legal advice from a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A criminal defense lawyer will analyze and investigate your case and build up a strong defense strategy that will hopefully reduce or eliminate the penalties that you are facing. You don’t have to face this alone. Call The Law Place today to get started with your case.
Defenses for a Minor Caught in Possession of Alcohol in Clearwater
If you are facing criminal charges for the underage possession of alcohol in Clearwater, then it is highly advised to seek legal advice as soon as possible. A knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer will be able to investigate and assess your case and work to develop a defense strategy. Possible defense strategies could include:
- A lack of awareness that the beverage you were consuming contained alcohol. For example, you may have been given the beverage by a friend.
- A lack of proof that the beverage contained alcohol. You are innocent until proven guilty.
- The beverage that was being consumed was non-alcoholic.
- The arresting officer did not follow the proper protocols.
- The evidence was destroyed or was failed to be preserved by the police officer.
- Law enforcement failed to read your Miranda warnings, which would result in the suppression of any incriminating statements.
- Law enforcement was guilty of entrapment. Entrapment is a practice in which an officer, or person of the law, induces a person to engage in a criminal act that the person would have otherwise been unlikely or unwilling to engage in. In this scenario, your case should be dismissed.
- There was a lack of a search warrant or other legal justification for an officer to enter the property on which you were caught.
The type of defense strategy that a criminal defense lawyer puts forward will depend on the circumstances that you are caught in possession of alcohol. A knowledgeable lawyer will be able to build a strong defense that puts you in the best position to have your charges reduced or even dropped.
Questions to Ask an Attorney?
When seeking legal advice in Clearwater, you want to feel confident that you are in the best possible hands and giving yourself the best possible chance of having your charges dropped. In order to ensure you are hiring a knowledgeable and experienced attorney, we would advise you ask the law firm the following questions:
- Have you dealt with similar cases before, and have the outcomes been successful?
- What are your fees, and do you offer any payment plans?
- Do you have any references or testimonials from previous clients?
Contact The Law Place in Clearwater Today!
If you are a minor that has been accused of the possession of alcohol, then The Law Place is here to help. We understand how daunting facing criminal charges can be, which is why we will do everything possible to avoid charges and lessen the penalties you are facing. We pride ourselves on developing a positive attorney-client relationship built on trust. We will be here to guide you through the legal process every step of the way.
Our law firm offers all our customers a free consultation, where you can talk through your case and receive some free, no-obligation legal advice with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.
At our Clearwater office, our phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. So, you can contact us at any time of day and be assured that we will be on hand to offer support and advice when you need it most. Contact us today at (727) 217-9795 and get started with your case.