Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC (Alcoholic Beverages at a Public Educational Facility)

Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC is the California statute that makes it a crime to bring alcohol into a public schoolhouse, or on the grounds of the same.

Examples of illegal acts under this code section include:

  • A dad takes his 3rd grader to school for “Bingo Night” and brings a beer concealed in a paper bag.
  • A mom joins her son at his school for a holiday concert and sneaks in wine that she poured into a coffee mug.
  • a man carries a flask full of hard alcohol into a community college's football game, which takes place on college grounds.

Luckily, there are several legal defenses that a person can raise if accused of bringing an alcoholic beverage into a public school. These include showing that the accused party:

  • falls within an exception to the general rule under BPC 25608;
  • was not on the grounds of a public schoolhouse; and/or,
  • was arrested after an unlawful search and seizure.

Penalties

A violation of Business and Professions Code 25608 is charged as a misdemeanor (as opposed to a California felony or an infraction). The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Our California criminal defense attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

minors alcohol california public school
California Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC is the California statute that makes it a crime to bring alcohol into a public schoolhouse, or on the grounds of the same.

1. What is the legal definition of “alcoholic beverages at a public educational facility”?

California Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC makes it a crime for a person to

  • possess,
  • consume,
  • sell,
  • give, or
  • deliver

an alcoholic beverage while in a public schoolhouse, or while on the grounds of the public schoolhouse.1

Please note that there are a few exceptions to this general rule. And, they are specifically listed in the language of BPC 25608.

Some exceptions where alcohol is allowed at a school include:

  • when it is used as part of an instructional program in viticulture (or the study of grape cultivation);
  • when it is served during an event where students are not attending class;
  • when it is used in connection with a course of study and is held by a person authorized to possess, acquire, or use it; and,
  • when it is served, possessed, or provided as part of a culinary arts (or food making) program.2

2. What are the legal defenses to accusations under BPC 25608?

A person accused under Business and Professions Code 25608 can challenge the accusation by raising a legal defense. A good defense can often get a charge reduced or even dismissed. Please note, though, that it is critical for an accused to hire an attorney to get the most effective defense.

Three common defenses to BPC 25608 accusations are:

  1. an exception applies;
  2. not on school grounds; and/or,
  3. unlawful search and seizure.

2.1. Exception

Please recall that there are exceptions to the general rule prohibiting alcohol at a public school. And, these exceptions are specifically listed in the language of BPC 25608. Therefore, it is a solid legal defense for an accused to show that he is innocent of a crime because he falls within one of these exceptions.

2.2. Not on school grounds

Again, recall that alcohol is not allowed in a public schoolhouse or on its grounds. Several school events though (e.g. sporting events), take place off the grounds of a school. In these circumstances, the prohibitions under BPC 25608 would not apply because the facts do not involve a situation that includes the grounds of a public schoolhouse.

2.3. Unlawful search and seizure

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that we have the right to be free from unreasonable “searches and seizures” by law enforcement. If authorities obtain evidence from an unreasonable, or unlawful search and seizure, then that evidence can get excluded from a criminal case. This means that any charges in the case could get reduced or even dismissed.

The Fourth Amendment's rule against unreasonable search and seizures means that police may not search a person or his property unless one of the following is true:

  1. they have obtained a valid search warrant from a judge, or
  2. the search falls within one of a number of exceptions to the warrant requirement recognized by federal and California courts.3
jail cell
A violation of this law can result in a large fine and/or a jail sentence

3. Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

A violation of Business and Professions Code 25608 is charged as a misdemeanor.4 The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.

Please note that in lieu of jail time a judge may order a defendant to misdemeanor probation. This is also called “summary” or “informal” probation.

4. Related Offenses

There are three crimes related to bringing alcohol into a public educational facility. These are:

  1. contributing to the delinquency of a minor – PC 272;
  2. lewdness or intoxication in the presence of a child – PC 273(g); and,
  3. public intoxication – PC 647(f).

4.1. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor – PC 272

Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a crime per California Penal Code 272.

The offense occurs when someone acts, or fails to act, and as a result a minor becomes:

  • a dependent of the juvenile court system;
  • a juvenile delinquent; or
  • a habitual truant.5

A violation of Penal Code 272 is a misdemeanor.6

The possible penalties include

  • up to one year in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $2,500.7

4.2. Lewdness or intoxication in the presence of a child – PC 273(g)

California Penal Code 273(g) PC is the California statute on persons acting in a lewd manner and/or being intoxicated in the presence of a child.

Penal Code 273(g) says that it is a crime if a person does the following:

  1. has the care or custody of a child, and either
  2. acts in any “degrading, lewd, immoral or vicious” manner, or
  3. is “habitually drunk.”8

Whether or not a person acts in a “degrading, lewd, immoral or vicious” way is a question of fact. This means a judge or jury will make the decision on whether certain behavior is unlawful after considering all of the details in a case.

Further, a California court has ruled that PC 273(g), as it relates to a person being “habitually drunk,” is unconstitutional.9 The court found it to be unconstitutional because the phrase “habitually drunk” is vague, uncertain, and ambiguous.10

Penal Code 273(g) has not been amended or changed since this court ruling. This means there is some uncertainty as to whether the intoxication portion is still a valid law.

A violation of PC 273(g) is charged as a misdemeanor. The crime is punishable by:

  • imprisonment in the county jail for not more than six months; and/or,
  • a maximum fine of $1,000.11

4.3. Public Intoxication – PC 647(f)

Penal Code 647(f) PC is known as California's "drunk in public" (or "public intoxication") law.

A person violates PC 647(f) if he is so drunk that he:

  1. is unable to exercise care for his safety or the safety of others, or
  2. interferes with, obstructs, or prevents others from using streets, sidewalks, or other "public ways."12

Drunk in public is a misdemeanor in California.13 If convicted, a defendant may face the following:

  • up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • a fine of up to $1,000.14

Were you accused of bringing an alcoholic beverage into a California public school? Call us for help…

california alcohol public school legal defense
Call us for help at (855) LAW-FIRM

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under Business and Professions Code 25608, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.


Legal References:

  1. California Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC. This code section states: “Every person who possesses, consumes, sells, gives, or delivers to another person an alcoholic beverage in or on a public schoolhouse or the grounds of the schoolhouse, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

  2. See same.

  3. E.g., Riley v. California (2014) 134 S.Ct. 2473, 2482. (“In the absence of a warrant, a search is reasonable only if it falls within a specific exception to the warrant requirement.”).

  4. California Business and Professions Code 25608 BPC.

  5. California Penal Code 272(a) PC.

  6. See same.

  7. See same.

  8. California Penal Code 273(g) PC.

  9. People v. Perreault (1960), 182 Cal. App. 2d Supp. 843.

  10. See same.

  11. California Penal Code 19 PC.

  12. California Penal Code 647(f) PC.

  13. See same.

  14. California Penal Code 19 PC.

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