What Are The Penalties For Underage Drinking In Virginia?
Possession of and drinking alcohol by underage persons is not something law enforcement takes lightly in Virginia. Authorities staunchly believe underage drinking is both a health and safety hazard to the state’s youth, and as such has strict penalties for violating underage possession of alcohol laws.
While most young people are smart enough to make the right life choices, even the most well-behaved teens may get caught up in situations where lapses in judgement can happen. Even though police, prosecutors, and courts generally hate to see one bad decision ruin a person’s life, they still have a duty to enforce the law and demonstrate that bad choices have consequences.
The attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC understand the pitfalls youthful indiscretion may have on the futures of bright, hardworking, and well-intentioned young people. Our law office regularly defends the rights of teens and young adults accused of violating Virginia’s underage drinking laws.
Punishment for underage drinking in Virginia
In Virginia, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase, possess, or attempt to purchase alcohol, spirits, wine, and beer. Violations are not a slap on the wrist and may carry consequences for the offender. Punishments for underage possession of alcohol in Virginia include:
- Fines up to $2,500;
- Up to 50 hours of community service;
- Drivers license suspension of between 180 days and one year;
- Up to one year in jail; and
- Court mandated substance abuse counseling.
Underage possession of alcohol in Virginia is a Class I misdemeanor. Young people should not assume they will be let off with a light sentence because of their age. Depending on the circumstances of the case, courts may exercise their authority to apply maximum penalties as a deterrent to similar behavior in the future.
Will my child lose their driver’s license for underage drinking?
Whether or not your child loses his or her driver’s license for an uderage possession of alcohol charge depends on the circumstances. If convicted of violating Virginia’s underage drinking laws, the underage person may have their license suspended for at least six months and pay a minimum fine of $500.
Adults convicted of underage possession of alcohol may be eligible for a restricted license, allowing them to operate a motor vehicle strictly for transportation to and from work. However, this is not always a given and persons facing underage possession of alcohol charges should strongly consider seeking legal representation.
Are there first time offender programs for underage drinking in Virginia?
Virginia does have some diversionary programs for minors and adults under 21 accused of possessing alcohol illegally. Persons facing underage drinking charges who have no prior charges in or out of state may be placed in first offender programs by the court.
Judges may place the accused into community-based counseling programs to rehabilitate the offender. Upon successful completion of these types of programs, the defendant may have his or her record discharged. Again, no one facing underage alcohol possession charges should automatically assume they will gain access to these programs and come through with a clean record.
Underage drinking attorneys in Virginia
If you or your child are facing charges for possession of alcohol in Virginia, contact the attorneys of Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC for a consultation about your case. Our attorneys regularly represent clients facing these types of charges and can work with prosecutors and the courts to get a fair and amenable solution to the charges.