Underage Drinking Laws in the State of WashingtonComments Off on Underage Drinking Laws in the State of Washington
In Washington, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to purchase or possess alcohol. Minors who are caught in possession of alcohol could face penalties, including detention, fines, and probation. If you or your child are facing charges for underage drinking, it is important to seek the help of a criminal defense attorney.
Washington Minor in Possession Laws
Minor in possession or minor in consumption of alcohol is a common criminal offense in Washington. According to RCW 66.44.270, it is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to acquire, consume, or possess alcoholic beverages of any kind. Additionally, it is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to appear intoxicated in a public place or inside of a motor vehicle parked in a public place.
Possession involves having any alcohol around you, and you can face these charges even if you are not drinking or physically holding the alcohol. For example, if a friend places a case of beer in your vehicle and you are under the age of 21, you could still face minor in possession charges even if the alcohol is not technically yours.
There are certain situations where these laws do not apply, including the following.
- The minor’s parent or guardian provided him or her with the alcohol and he or she consumed the alcohol in the presence of the parent or guardian.
- A parent, guardian, physician, or dentist provided the minor with the alcohol for medicinal purposes.
- The minor possesses the alcohol for use in connection with religious services, such as communion, and he or she is consuming the minimal amount required for the religious service.
Penalties Minors Could Face for Underage Drinking
Minor in possession is a gross misdemeanor crime in Washington state. The maximum penalty for underage drinking is a $5,000 fine and 364 days in jail; it is unlikely that you would receive this maximum sentence unless the case involves extraordinary circumstances. However, you could still face jail time, fines, probation, license suspension, and other administrative penalties.
Driver’s license suspension is a common consequence for minor in possession convictions. The state uses the following rules to issue these administrative penalties.
- For a first offense, you could receive a license revocation until you reach the age of 17. If you are 17 years or older, the state will suspend your license for one year.
- For a second offense, you could receive a license suspension until you reach the age of 18. If you are 18 years or older, the state will suspend your license for two years.
Is Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor Also a Crime?
Unless the situation meets one of the criteria listed in RCW 66.44.270, adults who provide alcohol to people under the age of 21 could face criminal penalties. Furnishing alcohol to a minor is also a misdemeanor crime and is punishable by a maximum of 364 days in prison and a $5,000 fine. Adults can face this charge if they allow minors to purchase alcohol at the liquor store they work for, host a party with underage drinking on their premises, or otherwise supply alcohol to someone who they are not a parent or legal guardian of.
Although a minor in possession charge may seem minimal, it can have a major impact on your future. If you or your child is facing minor in possession charges, contact a Tacoma criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can defend you against these charges and advocate for the best possible outcome on your behalf.