If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance your kids have consumed alcohol before reaching the age of 21. Not something parents want to hear, but true. At a party, at a club, or maybe in the back seat of a car riding around town. We’ve all been there, right? As the kid and as the parent. And the punishment is usually something along the lines of a stern lecture on the dangers of alcohol and being grounded.
But parents and their kids need to be aware that in Virginia, Underage Possession of Alcohol is a class 1 misdemeanor carrying a maximum jail sentence of up to 12 months. Additionally, there is a mandatory minimum fine of $500.00 or 50 hours of community service, and a mandatory driver’s license suspension of 6 to 12 months. That means any person under the age of 21 who is caught with alcohol will be facing a possible jail sentence and a permanent criminal record. And, as a parent, you’ll be doing all of the driving again for at least 6 months! It is important to note that “possession” doesn’t just mean holding a bottle of beer; it includes alcohol that has already been consumed and is in your kid’s stomach (and probably on his breath, which is how most folks get caught).
I’m a parent myself and I’m guessing that even the angriest of parents would rather stick with just the stern lecture and the grounding!
The good news is that if your son or daughter is an adult and has not previously been convicted of underage possession, consumption, or purchase of alcohol in Virginia or any other state, he or she may be eligible for a deferred finding by the Court. What that means is the Court will place them on probation and order them into a treatment or education program or both, may suspend or restrict their license, and may order them to do community service. If they complete these requirements and don’t have any new charges while on probation, the Court will dismiss the charge at the end of the probation period.
For more information, see Virginia Code Section 4.1-305. If your son or daughter is a juvenile, the case will be controlled according to the provisions of Virginia Code Section 16.1-278 et seq.