Underage Possession of Alcohol
It may not sound like a big deal to drink alcohol before you’re of legal age, but a charge for underage alcohol possession is a serious affair. If you’re not yet 21 and a law enforcement officer catches you with alcohol, you will face criminal charges. It is highly unlikely that you will receive a jail sentence for alcohol possession, but the fines, community service, suspended driving privileges, and a permanent criminal record can have a devastating effect on your situation.
If you have questions about an underage alcohol offense, contact Michael O’Meara at O’Meara Law at 312-909-0706 to find out how he can help you.
Illinois Laws Concerning Alcohol Possession by a Minor
The Illinois Liquor Control Act, which you can find at 235 ILCS 5/1 et seq, prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from consuming or possessing alcohol. There are two kinds of possession: actual and constructive. Actual possession means that the alcohol is in your hands, bag, or clothing. Constructive possession means the alcohol is under your control, such as in the trunk of your car, on the table in front of you, or in your cabinet.
Alcohol possession or consumption by a minor is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by any of the following:
- Up to 364 days in county jail
- Up to $2,500 in fines
- Court supervision
- Community service
- Alcohol education or treatment
- 3 to 12-month driver’s license suspension (regardless of whether you were in or around a car when the offense took place)
Depending on the circumstances, you may face charges under the local ordinances of the town or municipality where the arrest took place. The penalty for a “drinking ticket” will depend on the local ordinance, but in general it will cost you a few hundred dollars. Since an ordinance violation is not a criminal offense, there is no possibility of additional jail time. Your driver’s license, however, will still get suspended under Illinois’s “zero-tolerance” policy.
How Can a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney Help?
By hiring an experienced Chicago criminal defense attorney, you may be able to avoid all or some of the penalties for underage possession of alcohol. You may think it’s best to just plead guilty and save the cost of hiring a lawyer, but the costs of a criminal conviction will be higher than your investment in a good defense lawyer. Even if you think your case is helpless, your lawyer will be able to help you get the best outcome possible under the circumstances.
Every case is different, but common defenses to minor in possession of alcohol charges include:
- Suppressing the evidence – If the police found alcohol on your person after stopping you for no reason, they may have violated your rights. Prosecutors cannot use evidence against a suspect if it was obtained in violation of the suspect’s rights. Your defense lawyer will overview the evidence against you and determine whether filing a motion to suppress the prosecutor’s evidence is a possibility.
- Proving reasonable doubt – Your conviction for underage possession will depend on the prosecutor’s ability to prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. While there may be no doubt as to your age, your lawyer may be able to show there is a reasonable possibility that the substance you possessed was not alcohol or that you did not have the alcohol in your possession or under your control.
- Using an affirmative defense – When you use an affirmative defense, you admit that you possessed the alcohol as an underage person, but argue that you were legally justified in doing so. Under Illinois law, minors are allowed to possess or consume alcohol under the supervision of their parent or guardian in a private home or in the context of a religious service or ceremony.
- Negotiating with the prosecutor – Even if there is no possibility of proving your innocence, a good lawyer can help you get the most out of a guilty plea. By skillfully negotiating with the prosecuting attorney, your lawyer can help you secure the guarantee of lenient penalties or a beneficial court supervision program.
If you’ve been charged with underage possession or consumption of alcohol, you need to act fast to avoid the penalties of a conviction. The earlier your lawyer starts working on your case, the higher your chances of obtaining a positive resolution of your case. If you want to talk about your case with a Chicago Underage & Student Crimes Lawyer, call O’Meara Law today at 312-909-0706for a free and confidential consultation of your case.