The Legal Consequences of Underage Drinking Explained

The interesting thing about juvenile crimes is that the punishment for most of them is intended to rehabilitate a minor, rather than punish them. In this instance, underage drinking is a crime that is routinely punished, not rehabbed.

Typical penalties for underage drinking include: criminal fines, mandatory community service, counseling, jail time and loss of driving privileges for a set amount of time. The reason underage drinking is treated so harshly is because it can quickly translate into other dangerous activities, like driving under the influence. Some less obvious issues that have been shown to be tied with drinking alcohol while underage are suicide, depression, violence, sexual violence, alcohol dependency and school delinquency.

Purchasing Alcohol Underage


Many teens know a place where they can go and get alcohol without being asked for identification. That may be a liquor store, or a bar, but many teens can get their hands on alcohol with very little effort. Unfortunately, if you get caught using a fake ID to purchase alcohol (at stores or bars) you will lose your actual license for up to 90 days and will likely face fines on top of that.

For those teens who think they are savvy by getting an adult they know to purchase them alcohol, they are putting that adult in a very precarious position. Adults caught doing this can face serious felony charges, prison time and if their act of providing alcohol leads to the death of a minor or property damage, the consequences are scaled accordingly.

Do your parents allow you to drink at home?

A few States permit this, but the vast majority of States impose serious penalties on parents who knowingly allow minors to consume alcohol on their property. In a few States the laws are so strict that it doesn’t even matter if your parents know you are drinking at home, they can still face criminal charges.

Your future

Underage drinking can have a serious impact on your future. If your drinking habits lead to other crimes such as assault or DWI, your permanent record can be permanently marred. If your actions result in the death or injury of another person, then not only do you have to face the legal consequences of your actions, but you also have to live with yourself.

How much will I get fined?

This really depends on a variety of things, but the fines range from $50 – $500, and the collected funds often go to support alcohol education programs.

What about that community service?

Community service is effective because it gives minors something productive to do with their time, while also creating the volunteer manpower needed by many organizations. The amount of community service hours required will depend on the situation, but in some states if a minor completes their community service, the state will drop the charges.

Getting alcohol education classes

Most anyone caught drinking underage and facing criminal fines or charges will be required to take alcohol education classes. The premise is that the more you know about it, the fewer risks you will take with it as a minor. Alcohol can be addictive, impair how your brain grows and cause long term or permanent damage to your body if abused. Few minors consider this when they drink.

Juvenile detention

If you are caught drinking and you are under the age of 18, there is a chance you could be spending some time in juvenile detention. If a minor is caught drinking and their guardians cannot be contacted, they may be stuck in juvenile detention until they can appear in front of a judge.

Goodbye license

You could lose your license for 6 months to a year, regardless of whether you were operating a vehicle when you were caught. This applies even if you are caught in another state. To reinstate your license you usually have to participate in alcohol awareness classes.

There are some long term legal consequences for those who get caught drinking underage, and they ca have a serious impact on your future if you are convicted. If you’ve been arrested for underage drinking you need to consult a lawyer immediately. Don’t ever waive your right to legal counsel.