There is a temptation for youth (under the age of 21) to consume alcohol before it becomes legal. If you attend college, some students may be over 21, and others may not. At college, there might be a mindset that alcohol is “no big deal.” Unfortunately, until you turn 21, alcohol can be a very big deal indeed.
Do you want to pursue a career in child psychology? Do you want a summer job as a camp counselor? In many instances, an alcohol violation on your record might prevent you from being able to pursue these things. An alcohol violation on your record before you turn 21 can have a big impact on your life, above and beyond a fine, including:
- Some career fields take alcohol violations more seriously than others
- The alcohol violation goes on, and remains permanently on your adult record, which is able to be viewed by any future potential employers
- An alcohol violation might make it more difficult to get into the school or college that you want
- If the alcohol violation was connected in any way with driving a car or other motor vehicle, then you would be facing stiff license suspension time, as well as the violation appearing on your driving record
If you or someone you know is facing an alcohol violation as a minor, I encourage you to contact The Nielsen Group for your free legal consultation with an experienced defense lawyer. We are happy to meet with you to answer your questions and to put your mind at ease.
The intent of this article is to share the impacts of under 21 alcohol violations and what to expect if you are facing these charges. This article will review:
- A fictional story to help explain the complex legal matters of under 21 alcohol violations
- How can a Maine OUI Attorney help?
- What is the Maine Law for underage alcohol violations?
- What are the impacts if the underage alcohol violation involves a car?
- What are the possible outcomes for underage alcohol violations?
- What to expect when dealing with the Maine Court Process
Underage alcohol violations are a complex legal matter to understand. In order to review the different scenarios and legal impacts, below is a fictional story to set the stage of under 21 alcohol violations.
Story about Under 21 Alcohol Violations
Tim and Bud are lifelong friends. It is their last summer before they both head to different colleges. Along with some friends, the stayed at a friend’s cottage near York Beach to pass the weekend. Tim and Bud carry their small cooler full of beers to the top of a lifeguard tower to watch the tides as night comes and the street lights come on, as well as to meet girls. Just talking, joking, and drinking beers, they feel like kings.
That is, until a cop on a bicycle rides up to them and asks what they are doing in the lifeguard’s tower when they are not supposed to be up there. When Tim and Bud climb down, the cop asks what is in their cooler. After seeing their beers, the cop asks for some identification from both of them.
While Tim had his own driver’s license on him showing that he is underage; Bud did not have any ID on him but swore to the cop that he was 21. Unfortunately for the two of them, the cop was not convinced. Both of them were placed under arrest and brought to the police station, where they were given breathalyzer tests. Both had BAC levels that were under 0.08, but nevertheless positive. Both were issued civil Summonses for a Minor Consuming Alcohol.
The worst part was when Tim and Bud had to make the phone call to get one of their friends to pick them up. Their friends are going to talk about this, and their parents are surely going to find out.
How a Maine Criminal defense lawyer can help
Anyone can make a mistake when they are young. The key is to take care of the problem now so that it does not haunt you later in life. Even though the charge is a civil violation, it is still worth your while to invest in a Maine Criminal defense lawyer. Since Tim and Bud were both facing violations stemming from the same incident, they are considered to be “co-defendants.” Because Tim’s and Bud’s individual interests are at odds with one another, generally each co-defendant should hire separate legal counsel.
Some approaches your lawyer can take in a civil alcohol violation include:
- Advocate Aggressively with the District Attorney. Your defense lawyer can take an approach in civil alcohol cases to negotiating heavily with the District Attorney for a favorable resolution. Assuming that Tim and Bud are good kids that were not troublemakers at school, and neither of them has a Juvenile Criminal record, then there is a good argument to be made that this incident is not characteristic of their behavior, nor does this incident say anything about their potential to grow into productive citizens. Often, civil alcohol violations can be resolved outside of the courtroom by the lawyers.
- Motion the Court to Suppress the Stop. Regardless of your age, police must respect your Constitutional rights when conducting an investigation. Did the cop have a valid reason to confront Tim and Bud? In this instance, Tim and Bud were not allowed to be sitting in the lifeguard tower, making that stop legitimate. But what if they had been sitting on beach blankets in the sand and not disturbing anyone? Then the cop would have had needed more of a reason to confronting them on the beach.
- Challenge any chemical test evidence, such as the Intoxilyzer. In this case, Tim and Bud were asked to give chemical tests, such as an alcohol breath test, also known as an Intoxilyzer. Just like in any other case where there is chemical evidence, such as defending an OUI, the cop performing the test needs to be properly certified, and the test needs to be conducted properly, or else the result might not be reliable.
Maine Law for Underage Alcohol Violations
Overall, if you are under 21, any activity that is associated with alcohol is prohibited. Title 28-A M.R.S.A Section 2051 governs intoxicating liquors in Maine. The following are acts that are explicitly prohibited by minors:
Minor Purchasing Alcohol
In Maine, a minor is prohibited from buying or purchasing alcohol, including “imitation liquor.”
Minor Possessing Alcohol
If you are under 21, you are not allowed to possess any alcohol, period. Nor is a person under 21 allowed to have alcohol on their person at any bar or restaurant, or any premises licensed for the sale of liquor to be consumed on the premises.
A minor “possessing alcohol” also includes possessing any equipment intended for the purpose of fermenting or manufacturing alcohol.
The only exception to this law is when the person under 21 possesses or transports alcohol in the scope of their employment, such as driving a truck transporting alcohol to a vendor, or is possessing alcohol while under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian.
Minor Consuming Alcohol
If you are under 21, you are not permitted to consume alcohol. The only narrow exception to this rule is if you are consuming alcohol at home and in front of a parent or legal guardian. Unfortunately, older siblings or cousins do not count as “legal guardians” for this purpose.
Fake ID Cards
There are a number of underage alcohol violations that are connected to the use, sale, or possession of fake ID cards:
- Presenting a fake ID for purpose of “ordering, purchasing, attempting to purchase, or otherwise procure or attempting to procure the serving” of any alcohol, liquor, or imitation liquor.
- Presenting a fake ID for the purpose of gaining access into a bar or other over 21-only establishment.
- Possessing a fake ID on your person
- Selling or attempting to sell a fake ID to an underage person
- Giving a fake ID to an underage person so that they can attempt to access alcohol
Penalties for Underage Alcohol Violations
For the above violations, the fines are outlined as follows:
- For a First Violation, the fine is a minimum of $200.00 up to $400.00.
- For a Second Violation, the fine is a minimum of $300.00 up to $600.00.
- For a Third Violation, the fine is a mandatory $600.00, which cannot be reduced or negotiated down.
As an alternative to the above fines, or in addition to the above fines, the Judge may assign the under 21 defendant to perform community service or other charity work as a part of their penalty.
The part that will often blow the minds of potential clients who are under 21, all of the above violations become completely legal after they turn 21. You would be able to possess alcohol, get into bars with your own legitimate ID, and purchase alcohol legally without any raised eyebrows.
Other types of alcohol-related trouble a young adult can get into can be more serious in nature.
What if the Underage Alcohol Violation Involves a Car?
When an alcohol violation occurs, and the offense involves the operation of a car or other motor vehicle, the person under 21 learns the hard way what the State of Maine means when it talks about “zero tolerance.” In Maine “zero tolerance” means that if you are under 21, the only acceptable blood alcohol level you can have is 0.00, or “triple zeroes.” If you violate this law, you can expect to face some harsh treatment from the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
And in some instances, the underage alcohol violation is actually a criminal charge and not a civil violation.
Minor Transporting Alcohol
If a minor is found to be transporting alcohol in their car or other motor vehicle, this is considered to be a civil violation. However, such a violation, if there is a conviction, would also trigger a license suspension from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) for a period of thirty (30) days. 28-A M.R.S.A. Section 2052.
Operating Beyond License Restriction
When a person under 21 operates a motor vehicle with less than 0.08 blood alcohol content, then this is considered to be a Class E criminal charge of Operating Beyond License Restriction. Until you turn 21, you have to abide by the zero tolerance law. And so if you drive a car with any amount of alcohol in your system, then you are driving a car beyond what your license allows you to do legally. If convicted of a Class E misdemeanor crime, the penalties include up to $1,000.00 in fines and up to six (6) months jail time. In addition, the BMV will impose a mandatory suspension of your driver’s license for one (1) whole year.
Underage Operating Under the Influence
If you operate a motor vehicle with 0.08 blood alcohol content or above, then you would be charged with Criminal OUI. A first offense for Criminal OUI is a Class D misdemeanor crime. A conviction can include mandatory minimum penalties, which are the least severe penalties allowable by law, such as a hefty fine and license suspension time. For more information about facing an OUI charge while under 21, check out my article where this topic is discussed at length.
What about license reinstatement?
If your underage alcohol violation involves driving a car, and your license is suspended by the BMV, then before you could get your license back, you would need to become DEEP compliant. This means completing a DEEP course. If you are under 21, then you would take the appropriate Under 21 DEEP course. If you do not finish your DEEP course on time, your license would not be reinstated. Take note: DEEP is required for all alcohol related suspensions, not just OUI. Therefore if you are charged with Operating Beyond Licence restirxtion because your BAC was a 0.04, then you would have to take and complete the DEEP course before you can reinstate your license.
Potential Outcomes for Under 21 Alcohol Violations
With the assistance of a defense lawyer, here are some of the possible outcomes in an under 21 alcohol violation case:
- Dismissal. In the best case scenario for our friends Tim and Bud, the District Attorney might agree that they deserve a second chance, and the alcohol violation would be dismissed. A dismissal is the best possible outcome in a civil violation or a criminal case.
- Filing Agreement. In a Filing Agreement, the State would set aside the violation for a period of time pending your good behavior. This would give the accused person an opportunity to show that they have learned their lesson from the experience and not get into any more trouble in the future. If the defendant is successful in staying out of trouble, the State would dismiss the violation.
- Trial Verdict. If they chose to do so, Tim and/or Bud could decide to take their case to a trial. The outcome of that trial would be a verdict. A verdict is considered the end point of the case.
Court Procedure for Under 21 Alcohol Violations
At Court, an alcohol violation is designated with a “VI” in the Court’s docket number. This is different from the “CR” designation that the Court assigns to criminal cases. Often the civil violations are heard at court alongside the criminal cases. This does not mean that the civil violation has suddenly become a criminal charge. Here is the typical court procedure for a civil alcohol violation; note that the court procedure for a civil violation is the same as the court procedure for criminal cases at the Unified Criminal Docket:
An Arraignment is the first court appearance in a civil alcohol violation. The only difference between an Arraignment on a civil violation and an Arraignment on a criminal charge is instead of pleading Not Guilty, you would enter an “admission” or “denial” to the violation.
The Dispositional Conference is the first opportunity to reach a resolution to the case. In many civil alcohol violation cases, the matter is resolved at the Dispositional Conference. However, depending on the specific facts of the incident, you might want to pursue the Motion Hearing and possible Trial.
If the lawyer finds any problems with the State’s investigation, then there might be a pretrial motion set for the Motion Hearing, such as a hearing on the Motion to Suppress. A Motion to Suppress petitions for any evidence obtained in violation of the defendant’s civil rights to be “suppressed” from evidence, or kept out of evidence at trial. The Judge determines the outcome of the Motion Hearing.
Similar to a criminal case, you get the opportunity for a full testimonial trial, with one significant difference. While criminal cases have the highest burden of evidence in the legal system, called “beyond a reasonable doubt,” a civil trial has the less stringent burden of evidence called a “preponderance of the evidence.” Under a “preponderance” standard, if it is “more likely than not” that you committed the alcohol violation, then that civil violation would go on your permanent record.
For more information
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