7 Things You Should Know About Selling Or Furnishing Alcohol To A Minor

California Business & Professions Code 26568

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Overview of Selling Alcohol To A Minor

Furnishing or supplying alcohol to a minor, or anyone under the age of 21, is a misdemeanor offense in California. It is an offense that is commonly charged against liquor stores, bars or restaurants that fail to confirm the age of a person or persons before selling them alcoholic beverages.

How Does the Prosecutor Prove The Charge?

This offense encompasses more than just unlawfully selling alcohol to underage individuals. The elements of the crime include:

  • Selling, providing or giving away; or causing to sell, provide or give away; an alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21
  • Being a licensee that sells adult beverages and allowing persons under 21 to drink at your establishment or on your premises, regardless if you have knowledge that such activity is going on
  • Being a minor and purchasing alcohol or consuming it in a business or establishment where alcohol is sold

B & P Code 25658 is a strict liability crime. This means that in order to be convicted, the prosecution need only prove that you, individually, or an employee of your business, sold alcohol to a person under the age of 21, whether you knew or suspected the person was underage or not.

You do not have to be a business owner where alcoholic beverages are sold to be charged and convicted under this offense. Anyone who is an adult and buys alcohol and then furnishes, sells or gives it to a minor is culpable as well.

Bars and nightclubs are encouraged to contact law enforcement when an underage individual attempts to buy alcohol by displaying an altered or counterfeit identification card, usually a driver’s license.

Businesses that sell alcohol to minors face stiff fines and suspension of their liquor license for such offenses and risk loss of their license if they are convicted of too many offenses.

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Legal Defenses

Regardless of this crime being a strict liability offense, the law does offer defenses that your criminal defense attorney can present on your behalf:

An Honest and Reasonable Belief —

This is also a mistake of fact defense that can be used so long as you had a reasonable and well-founded belief that the individual was at least 21. You may be able to avail yourself of this defense if the person’s ID card appeared to be legitimate, had the person’s image on it and the individual looked to be 21.

Penalties

For selling or giving away alcohol to a minor, you face:

  • A fine of up to $1000
  • Perform at least 24 hours of community service at an alcohol or drug treatment facility or the county coroner’s office

You face stiffer penalties if the minor to whom you sold or furnished the alcohol then drove a motor vehicle or engaged in some activity where that individual suffered great bodily harm or death, or caused someone else to do so.

If convicted, you face from:

  • 6 months to 1  year in county jail
  • A fine up to $1000.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I order wine or beer for my minor child in a restaurant in California?

 Answer: No, it is illegal to furnish or provide alcohol to a minor under any circumstances in California.

Question: Can my child consume alcohol during a religious ceremony?

 Answer: Some states do have exceptions and allow minors to consume alcohol under certain circumstances such as during a religious ceremony. California has no such exception.

Question: Can I work in a restaurant or bar in California even though I am not 21?

 Answer: You can work in a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol when you are 18.

Contributing To The Delinquency Of A Minor

A companion offense to this charge is Penal Code 272—contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This offense is committed when:

  1. You commit an act or fail to perform a duty,
  2. In a way the encourages or causes a minor (under the age of 18) to become a delinquent, habitual truant or ward of the juvenile court

If you are a parent and you give your child alcohol under most circumstances, you may not be exercising reasonable care, properly supervising or protecting your child from harm or from engaging in a criminal act. Furnishing the alcohol may demonstrate criminal intent. Criminal negligence is also sufficient to charge you if know that your child is doing drugs that you have at your home and do nothing to prevent your child from accessing it. If convicted, you face up to one year in county jail and fine of up to $2500.

Similarly, parents who allow their children or other minors to drink at their home can be held criminally responsible and can face up to one year in county jail and a fine of no more than $1000 if their child or other minor who was also drinking to have a BAC of 0.05% or be under the influence. This extends to incidents where the child or other minor then drives a car and causes a traffic accident.

Minors Who Drink

As a minor who purchases or consumes alcohol in a place where alcohol is sold, you may have to pay a fine up to $250 and perform community service of 24-32 hours. Subsequent violations subject you to a fine not to exceed $500 and community service of 36-48 hours. Regardless if you were driving a motor vehicle at the time, the DMV will suspend your driver’s license for one year or delay your obtaining your license for one year from the date you become eligible.

Serving Minors in a Bar, Restaurant or Club

Bars and other businesses with on-site liquor licenses where patrons can consume alcohol face a 15-day suspension of their license for a first offense. A second conviction within 36-months will result in a 25-day suspension. A third conviction within this time will cause the business license to be revoked. ABC or the Alcohol Beverage Control will allow bars or clubs to pay a fine for first and second convictions in lieu of having their license suspended.

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