If you have been accused of underage possession of alcohol, you are likely worried about the consequences that could follow a conviction. In Florida, this crime is taken very seriously, with penalties including fines, jail time, and a permanent criminal record. With considerable experience as both a prosecutor and a defender, Sarasota underage crimes lawyer Erika Valcarcel can anticipate the prosecution’s approach and she will work diligently to get your charges reduced or eliminated in court, whether it involves pointing out police misconduct or conducting an independent investigation.
Call (941) 363-7900 today to see how your freedom can be protected.
Florida Underage Possession of Alcohol Laws
According to Section 562.11 of Florida Statutes, underage possession of alcohol is defined as an individual under the age of 21 possessing or drinking an alcoholic beverage. Here, the possession of alcohol can be actual or constructive in nature. Actual possession means that the alcohol is on the individual’s person. A beverage in a person’s hand or pocket, for example, could lead to the establishment of actual possession. Constructive possession, on the other hand, is determined when alcohol is under a person’s control. This could mean the beverage was in a person’s house or car.
Penalties and Collateral Consequences
Underage possession of alcohol is typically filed as a second-degree misdemeanor. For a second or third offense, however, the crime can be elevated to a misdemeanor in the first degree. In addition to fines and time served in jail, someone convicted of this crime will automatically lose their license for 6 to 12 months, depending on the severity of the offense. Common penalties include, but are not limited to:
- Underage Possession of Alcohol (2nd Degree Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $500 and up to 60 days in jail or up to six months of probation
- Underage Possession of Alcohol (1st Degree Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $1,000 and up to 1 year in jail or up to 12 months of probation
While these penalties may not seem severe, the collateral consequences of a conviction can wreak havoc. For college students, a criminal record could mean losing out on higher education. Many colleges and universities are made aware of students’ criminal activity through police reports and other sources. A conviction could lead to suspension or expulsion. In addition, scholarships may be difficult to find, as many are off-limits to those with a criminal history.
Defending Against Underage Possession of Alcohol
There are a number of defenses that a skilled defense attorney can use to get your charges thrown out in court. One of the most effective strategies is claiming that the alcohol in question is not yours. Perhaps you were with a friend who was drinking, or maybe alcohol was found in a house you were visiting. There are many circumstances that could lead to a false accusation. It might also be the case that you had no idea you were drinking an alcoholic beverage. In Florida, pleading ignorance is a defense to underage possession of alcohol.
Contact Erika Valcarcel, Criminal Defense Lawyer, P.A. Today
Sarasota underage crimes lawyer Erika Valcarcel understands the turmoil that can arise from these difficult accusations. She believes the key to winning your case lies in getting to know you. Once your side of the story has been told, your case can be presented in the best possible light.