ARS 4-241 is the Arizona statute that makes it a crime for a bar, liquor store, or similar business to furnish or sell alcoholic beverages to a minor (or a person under the legal drinking age of twenty-one). The law also makes it a crime for a minor to purchase or drink alcohol on the premises of these same businesses. Violations of this law are misdemeanor offenses punishable by up to six months in jail.
- someone 18 years of age using a fake driver’s license to try and buy a bottle of alcohol from a distiller.
- an employee of a microbrewery knowingly serving a beer to an underage person.
- a minor asking someone in a wine bar to buy her a glass of wine.
People accused of a crime under this statute can challenge the accusation with a legal defense. A few common defenses include defendants showing that:
- the person buying alcohol was not a minor,
- they made an honest mistake as to a person’s age, and/or
- they properly carded a minor.
A violation of this law is a misdemeanor offense under Arizona law (as opposed to a felony). Depending on the facts of the case, breaking this liquor law is either a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 3 misdemeanor.
While Class 1 misdemeanors can result in a jail term of six months, Class 3 misdemeanors can result in 1 month in jail.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “furnishing alcohol to a minor”?
Under ARS 4-241, it is a crime for a liquor store, bar, or similar business to sell or give spirituous liquor or alcohol to a minor. The law also makes it a crime for someone under 21 to purchase or drink alcohol at such businesses.i
Note that any business wishing to sell or provide alcohol must apply for a license to do so with the Arizona Department of Liquor Licenses and Control. If the Department provides a license to the business, the business is referred to as a licensee, licensed premises, or a licensed establishment. A person working for such a business is known as the employee of the licensee.ii
A business not authorized by the state liquor board to engage in the provision or sale of spirituous liquor, or the delivery of spirituous liquor is an unlicensed premises.
For purposes of this section, if a licensee or an employee of a licensee suspects that someone under 21 years of age is trying to purchase or procure alcohol, attempting the order of spirituous liquor, or trying to enter a licensed establishment, then the licensee or employee must:
- demand an instrument of identification from such person,
- examine the identification to ensure it is a bona fide ID that is valid and unexpired,
- examine the photograph of the person in the ID and ensure that a reasonable person would believe it resembles the suspect, and
- determine the age of the suspect by checking the date of birth listed on the identification.iii
If, after performing the above, a licensee or employee believes a person’s age is under 21, then ARS 4-241 says it is a crime to sell or furnish alcohol to that person.
Examples of valid instruments of identification include a valid:
- driver’s license,
- state ID card, and/or
- armed forces identification card.
2. Are there defenses to ARS 4-241?
Criminal defense lawyers draw upon several legal strategies to help clients contest charges brought under this statute. A few include attorneys showing that:
- a person buying alcohol was not a minor.
- a licensee or employee made a mistake regarding a person’s age.
- an employee followed the instructions set forth in the law.
2.1 No minor
People are only guilty of a crime under this law if they sell or provide alcohol to a minor. A defense, then, is for an accused to show that the person he/she furnished alcohol to was 21 years of age or older.
2.2 Mistake of fact
This defense asserts that while a person may have furnished or given alcohol to a minor, they did so by making an honest mistake as to the person’s age. The defense works as long as the defendant’s mistake was reasonable under the circumstances.
2.3 Proper ID of a minor
Recall that this law sets forth several specific steps that a licensee or employee must take when they believe that a person under 21 is trying to buy or obtain liquor. The steps involve the licensee or employee properly checking the person’s identification. This means it is always a defense for an accused to show a law enforcement agency or a peace officer that he/she followed these steps and properly identified a customer.
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of this law is a misdemeanor offense.
It is a Class 1 misdemeanor if:
- a licensee or an employee knowingly furnishes alcohol to a minor, or
- a minor tries to buy or obtain alcohol from a licensee.iv
A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by:
- custody in jail (as opposed to state prison) for up to six months, and/or
- a maximum penalty of $2,500.
A person guilty of this offense may face the suspension of his/her driver’s license as well as the above penalties.
Note that it is a Class 3 misdemeanor for minors to ask or solicit other people to provide them with alcohol.v
A Class 3 misdemeanor is punishable by:
- a jail term of up to 1 month, and/or
- a maximum fine of $500.
4. Are there related offenses?
There are three crimes related to furnishing alcohol to a minor. These are:
- contributing to the delinquency of a minor – ARS 13-3613,
- minor in possession – ARS 4-244(9), and
- DUI – ARS 28-1381A1.
4.1 Contributing to the delinquency of a minor – ARS 13-3613
Under ARS 13-3613, contributing to the delinquency of a minor is the crime where people commit an act that tends to debase or injure the morals, health, or welfare of a child.
Depending on the facts of a case, if a person furnishes alcohol to a minor, a prosecutor can charge that person with both:
- furnishing alcohol to a minor, and
- contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
4.2 Minor in possession – ARS 4-244(9)
Per ARS 4-244(9), minor in possession is the crime where minors buy, receive, possess, or consume an alcoholic beverage.
Note that if a minor obtains alcohol in violation of ARS 4-241, and keeps the alcohol on his/her person, then he/she is technically guilty of both:
- obtaining alcohol, under ARS 4-241, and
- possessing alcohol, under ARS 2-244(9).
4.3 DUI – ARS 28-1381A1
Under ARS 28-1381A1, DUI is the offense where someone drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of:
- a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or
- any combination of liquor, drugs, or vapor.
As with people that violate ARS 4-241, people in violation of this statute may face a driver’s license suspension or revocation.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law offices at the Shouse Law Group. Our legal team provides both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 4-241.
- Note that a licensed premises includes wholesalers of alcohol, a farm winery, and an establishment authorized to sell alcohol by means of a special event license.
- ARS 4-241A1-4. Subsection A of this section applies to establishments whose primary use or business applies to the sale or service of spirituous liquor.
- ARS 4-241.
- See same.