Possession of Alcohol by a Minor in Florida

If accused of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor in Florida, you need to know the:

Definition of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor

Under Florida Statute 562.111, the crime of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor occurs if a person under the age of 21 is found in possession of either:

  1. Commercial Beverages: Any drink whose container is labeled as “beer,” “ale,” “malt liquor,” “malt beverage,” “wine,” or “distilled spirits;” or
  2. Mixed Drinks: Any distilled spirit or beverage containing one-half of 1 percent or more alcohol by volume.

Penalties for Possession of Alcohol by a Minor

Possession of Alcohol by a Minor is an enhanceable offense, which means that the maximum possible penalties increase if a person has been previously convicted of the same offense.

First Offense Penalties

A first offense Possession of Alcohol by a Minor is classified as a Second Degree Misdemeanor.

If convicted of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to 60 days in jail.
  • Up to 6 months probation.
  • Up to $500 in fines.

Mandatory Driver License Suspension

If found guilty of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor, the court is required to revoke your driver's license for a minimum of six months. The court also has the authority to increase this suspension to 12 months.

Subsequent Offense Penalties

Possession of Alcohol by a Minor with a prior conviction is classified as a First Degree Misdemeanor.

If convicted of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor with a prior conviction, a judge can impose any combination of the following penalties:

  • Up to 12 months in jail.
  • Up to 12 months of probation.
  • Up to $1,000 in fines.

Mandatory Driver License Suspension

If found guilty of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor with a prior conviction, the court is required to revoke your driver's license for two years.

Defenses to Possession of Alcohol by a Minor

In addition to the pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case, specific defenses to the crime of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor are:

Constructive Possession

If the alcohol was found in a place where more than one person had access, the prosecutor would have to comply with the law of constructive possession, which requires the prosecutor to prove the following three elements before you can be convicted of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor: [1]

  1. Knowledge of the alcohol's presence;
  2. Knowledge of the illicit nature of the alcohol; and
  3. Exercised dominion and control over the alcohol.

Below are scenarios where it can be argued the prosecutor could not meet their burden of proving constructive Possession of Alcohol by a Minor.

Scenario 1: You were stopped while driving a friend's car and police find a plastic cup with beer in the cup holder, they would be unable to convict you of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor unless they had some proof that you knew the cup contained alcohol.
Scenario 2: You were driving your car, had a friend with you, and your friend takes places a six-pack of beer by his feet. The police then stop you, see your friend's six-pack, and arrest both of you. They should be unable to convict you of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor because even though you knew the beer was there, your friend is the only person who exercised dominion and control over it.

Lawfully Employed Service Employee

It is lawful, and therefore a defense to the crime of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor, for a person over the age of 18, to possess (but not consume) alcoholic beverage in the scope of his or her employment.

Non-Alcoholic Beverage

Pursuant to Florida Statute 561.01(4)(a), a beverage is only considered to be alcoholic if it contains one-half of 1 percent or more alcohol by total volume. If the beverage contains less than this amount, the beverage is considered non-alcoholic, which is legal for a minor to possess.

Consequently, if possession of a mixed-drink was the basis of the charge and law enforcement failed to secure the entire drink as evidence, it would be impossible to prove the composition of the drink was 1 percent or more alcohol by total volume.

Temporary Possession

The defense of temporary possession can be raised where a minor takes momentary, temporary, or transitory possession of alcohol from another person. Under such circumstances, the minor is not considered to be in legal possession of the alcoholic beverage because the minor never exercised complete dominion and control over the alcohol. [2]

Examples of temporary possession are when a minor is handed alcohol by another person and asked to hide it (usually during an unexpected police encounter); or when being handed alcohol by an adult for the sole purpose of tasting it; or when passing the alcohol from one person to another person.

Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Richard Hornsby

If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of Possession of Alcohol by a Minor in Central Florida or the greater Orlando area, please contact Criminal Defense Lawyer today.

The initial consultation is free and I am always available to advise you on the proper course of action that can be taken.

References

  1. BB v. State, 117 So. 3d 442 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2013)
  2. Campbell v. State, 577 So. 2d 932 (Fla. 1991)