California Business and Professions Code (BP) 25662 makes it a misdemeanor for individuals under the age of 21 to be in possession of an alcoholic beverage in a public place or place open to the public.
While it is common knowledge that underage drinking is a crime, there is more to know about underage drinking laws in Orange County, CA
- Individuals in violation of the underage possession of alcohol law will face penalties, but not jail time.
Punishment for a first conviction of this offense may result in a $250 fine and 24 to 32 hours of community service.
A second or subsequent offense may result in one or more of the following penalties.
- Maximum fine of up to $500,
- 36 to 48 hours of community service that does not interfere with attending school or work,
- California driver's license suspension for one year.
- The law criminalizes possession of alcohol, and not consumption per se.
This means that blood alcohol content is not relevant to this crime. Further, possession does not require that the underage person have the alcoholic beverage in his or her hands. The legal definition of possession can also mean that the underage person had or shared control with another over the beverage.
- Possession of alcohol by individuals under the age of 21 is legal under certain circumstances.
Under BP 25662, it is not unlawful for minors to be in the possession of alcohol if they are following reasonable instructions from an adult relating to disposition of the alcoholic beverage. This can include:
- delivering the beverage (such as carrying it from a car to the house),
- throwing the beverage in a trashcan set out on the curb, or
- handling the beverage if one is over 18 and serving alcohol as a waiter or waitress.
- Underage drinkers can receive immunity for self-reporting.
California Business and Professions Code 25667 gives immunity from criminal prosecution for possession of an alcoholic beverage to any person under the age of 21 years who meets the following conditions:
- the underage person called 911 and reported that either himself or herself or another person was in need of medical assistance due to alcohol consumption;
- the underage person was the first person to make the 911 report;
- the underage person reported that another person was in need of medical assistance, remained on the scene with the other person until that medical assistance arrived and cooperated with medical assistance and law enforcement personnel on the scene; and
- the underage person's alcohol consumption was not related to activities that made the consumption more dangerous, such as driving under the influence.
- There are social host ordinances which legally prohibit adults from knowingly hosting gatherings where alcohol is consumed by their underage guests.
A number of cities in Orange County have passed social host ordinances, including: Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, La Habra, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Orange, and Irvine. Violators of the ordinances may face fines and misdemeanor criminal charges.
There are defenses to criminal charges related to underage drinking. Contact us for a legal consultation.