Teens drink. It’s a fact. Most of us had a drink or two (or more) before we turned 21, and most parents of teens know their kids will most likely do the same. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because teenage drinking is common, it’s not a big deal. Legally, teenage drinking is a big deal, and being caught with alcohol can have life-changing consequences for your child. Depending on the charge she faces, she could have her driver’s license suspended, she may have to pay a steep fine, she could be required to complete an alcohol education course and under certain circumstances, she could have to spend time in jail. 

If your underage son or daughter is facing an alcohol-related charge, take action now. Learn about the charge, the potential penalties your child faces and the court processes for this type of charge. Get all the information you need plus advice on how to move forward by discussing your case with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. 

Understanding Teenage Alcohol Charges

When a teen or young adult is caught with alcohol, he may be charged with minor in possession. This is a Class C misdemeanor in Indiana, punishable by:

  • A fine of up to $500
  • Up to 60 days in jail
  • For offenders over age 18, driver’s license suspension for up to one year 
  • For offenders under age 18, driver’s license suspension for 60 days or longer

Additionally, an individual found guilty of this offense may be required to complete an alcohol education program. 

Another alcohol-related charge an underage person can face is an OWI. For drivers under age 21, the legal blood alcohol limit is 0.02 percent. A minor found to have a BAC over this amount, but under 0.08 percent, while operating a motor vehicle faces the following penalties:

  • Driver’s license suspension for one year
  • A fine of up to $500 plus court costs

When the year-long driver’s license suspension is complete, the minor must also pay a $130 reinstatement fee to the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles. He must also obtain an SR22 insurance form, a document that proves he carries at least the minimum amount of required automobile insurance.

If a minor has a BAC of 0.08 percent while in control of a motor vehicle, he may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. If his BAC was over 0.15 percent, he may face a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail. 

Your child could also face a Class C misdemeanor charge for allegedly making a false statement about his age in order to obtain alcohol. This includes using a fake ID in an attempt to buy alcohol from a retailer or bar. 

But What if my Child is Over 18, but Under 21?

If your child is a legal adult aged 18, 19 or 20, he can still be charged with minor in possession and other underage drinking charges. The difference between a legal adult facing this kind of charge and a minor facing one is that an adult’s case is handled by the criminal court, whereas a minor’s case is handled by the juvenile court. 

There are a few key differences between the juvenile court system and the criminal justice system. One important distinction is that when an adult is found guilty of a crime, he is convicted. When a minor is found guilty, he is adjudicated. Another important difference to note is that while the penalties a convicted adult faces are sentenced according to his charge (Class C misdemeanor, Class B misdemeanor, etc.), the juvenile court has more leeway to determine an appropriate sentence, known as a disposition in the juvenile system, based on the circumstances of the case. 

So for example, if a 20-year-old is charged with minor in possession of alcohol, he may have his driver’s license suspended for up to one year and he may face up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. If a 17-year-old is charged with the same offense, he may face these same penalties – but upon examining his case, the court may instead (or additionally) require him to do community service, complete an alcohol education course or require him to attend counseling. 

Call an Experienced Indiana Criminal Defense Lawyer Now

As a parent, you always want what’s best for your child. You might not approve of her choice to drink underage, but it’s your duty to ensure her case is represented accurately in court. Contact Blankenship Law, LLC today to schedule your legal consultation in one of our two Indiana offices.