Virginia Underage Drinking Attorney
According to Virginia law, an underage drinking charge is a misdemeanor, but those accused often ignore the fact that serious consequences may follow a guilty verdict. Penalties for underage drinking, also known as underage possession-of-alcohol, can be quite severe – even for first-time offenders. But the real “crime” can occur when young people allow their good name to be blemished with a permanent criminal record. A negative criminal record may limit education, job, and personal opportunities for many years and dim what might otherwise have been a very bright future. An experienced Virginia underage drinking lawyer will aggressively defend your rights and can work with you to develop a strategy that serves your interests. We also have information on other criminal charges in Virginia with which an attorney can help here. En Español.
Underage Drinking Charges in Virginia
It is almost a rite of passage for young people under 21 to attend college parties and other functions where alcohol is easily available. Despite its widespread accessibility, it remains a criminal offense for persons under 21 to possess or consume alcohol. Law enforcement officials and prosecutors throughout the Commonwealth have a duty to enforce these laws vigorously, as they pertain directly to public health and safety. Further, if those young people get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, their problems increase exponentially and they may be charged with underage DUI pursuant to 18.2-266.1 or even a “full” DUI offense pursuant to 18.2-266. A DUI charge, even one for an underage driver, can result in dire consequences, including some or all of the following:
- Community service
- Enrollment into an alcohol education program
- Driver’s license suspension
There are several offenses connected with misdemeanor alcohol-related charges:
- Underage possession of alcohol: Even if you are not behind the wheel, you could lose your license if you are convicted of underage possession of alcohol. You also don’t even have to have a drink in your hand to be charged with this violation. Public intoxication coupled with corroborating evidence, such as your blood alcohol content (BAC – which can be as low as 0.02 to trigger such charges) or an admission of guilt, can be enough to produce a criminal charge for possession.
- Fake IDs: If you use a fake ID – or someone else’s to claim you are 21 or over – to buy alcohol, that, too, might produce a misdemeanor charge and, at the very least, the loss of your driver’s license. See Virginia Code Section 4.1-305(B).
- Providing false information to a police officer: If you lie to any law enforcement officer about your age, you can be charged with a crime of moral turpitude, which is defined as “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.” This charge carries more weight; because not only did you break the law, you then lied about it. And when potential employers look at your criminal record (as they certainly will), it tells them you cannot be trusted, so why would they hire you?
All the charges we’ve spoken of so far are misdemeanors, which typically involves a maximum penalty of up to twelve months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500. In addition, most alcohol and identity-related offenses will mandate a driver’s license suspension, even for first-offenses. But at this point; the real threat is how any guilty verdict affects your criminal record and your future, including whether you’ll draw a suspension from your university if your charge violates any honor codes.
Don’t Risk Your Future by Taking Underage Drinking Charges Lightly
College students who are convicted of any crimes risk being expelled from school or losing government grants or scholarships – even private financial assistance in some cases, since those involve your promise to refrain from behavior that reflects badly on yourself and the organization that is helping you. These fall under the wide umbrella of “honor code” violations and they are weighed on a school-by-school basis.
But there are options in the law that may be leveraged by your defense lawyer to get underage possession charges completely dismissed. This can greatly benefit first-time offenders, as it means his or her record remains clean of criminal charges. Depending on the factual circumstances of the charges and the jurisdiction, there may be a variety of defenses available and efforts that may be taken to mitigate exposure. Finally, as these cases often involve a potential license suspension, our attorneys can work with you to obtain a restricted license given the specific requirements of the jurisdiction of your offense. Talk to an experienced Virginia underage drinking lawyer today. We handle cases of this nature on a regular basis and we are here to help.