Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charges in California
– Business and Professions Code §25662 –
Possession of Alcohol by A Minor - BPC 25662
In California, it is a crime for any person under the age of 21 to possess alcohol in a public place. Being a minor in possession of alcohol is criminalized pursuant to Business and Professions code section 25662, sometimes referred to as BPC 25662. Violating the section is a misdemeanor offense.
Although the technical penalties for the crime of minor in possession are not severe, the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction can have very serious implications. As you will see, one should never take criminal charges lightly.
The following information is intended to provide a general understanding of the crime of possession of alcohol by a minor in California. It is always recommended that someone charged with violating business and professional code section 25662 contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. as soon as possible.
1. What is considered possession of alcohol by a minor?
Before someone can be found guilty of a crime, the prosecutor must prove all of the essential components of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The essential components of a crime are called the “elements” of the crime.
To prove that a defendant is guilty of being a minor in possession of alcohol in violation of BPC 25662, the prosecutor must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant possessed an alcoholic beverage;
At the time, the defendant was in a public place; AND
The defendant was not yet 21 years old.
Business and Professions Code §25662 States:
Any person under 21 years of age who possesses any alcoholic beverage on any street or highway or in any public place or in any place open to the public is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) or the person shall be required to perform not less than 24 hours or more than 32 hours of community service during hours when the person is not employed or is not attending school.
A second or subsequent violation shall be punishable as a misdemeanor and the person shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars ($500), or required to perform not less than 36 hours or more than 48 hours of community service during hours when the person is not employed or is not attending school, or a combination of fine and community service as the court deems just.
For purposes of California law, a person is 21 years old as soon as the first minute of the person’s 21st birthday has begun.
Possession does not mean that the person must actually hold or touch the alcoholic beverage. There is sufficient evidence of possession if the person has control over or the right to control the beverage.
Example: Charlie went to a bonfire gathering at a local beach in Orange County with a handful of friends. While at the beach, several friends were consuming alcoholic beverages. Though Charlie did not take physical possession of the alcohol, he may have constructive possession.
Alcoholic Beverage –
An alcoholic beverage is any liquid or solid material intended to be consumed that contains at least 0.5% alcohol. This includes any hard liquor, spirits, seltzer, beer or other alcohol with more than 0.5% alcohol.
2. What are the penalties for possession of alcohol by a minor?
The penalties for possession of alcohol by a minor are dependent on the number of times the defendant has been convicted of Business and Professions Code section 25662.
The maximum penalty for a first offense of a minor in possession of alcohol is:
A fine of up to $250; OR
Between 24-32 Hours of community service.
The maximum penalty for any subsequent offense of a minor in possession of alcohol is:
A fine of up to $500;
Between 36-48 hours of community service; OR
Both that fine and imprisonment.
A judge will usually order the defendant to perform some form of community service.
More concerning than the actual penalties for possession of alcohol by a minor are the consequences that are associated with having a misdemeanor criminal conviction on your record.
3. Will a conviction for possession of alcohol as a minor go on my record?
Yes, a person found guilty of possession of alcohol by a minor in violation of BPC section 25662 will have a criminal record associated with the incident. Even just an arrest or citation for possessing alcohol as a minor may result in the creation of a criminal record.
A criminal record, sometimes called a RAP (records of arrest and prosecution) sheet is a formal list of prior arrests and convictions. In California these records are maintained by the state’s department of justice.
While the law provides that access to criminal records maintained by the DOJ is limited to legitimate law enforcement purposes and authorized applicants, criminal records can have far greater consequences. A criminal record can sometimes prevent or limit your ability to find housing, employment, or schooling.
It is always best to avoid a criminal conviction, if possible. However, a conviction for being a minor in possession of alcohol is eligible for expungement pursuant to penal code section 1203.4 (PC 1203.4).
Moreover, the records of the arrest or citation can be sealed pursuant to penal code section 851.91 (PC 851.91) later down the road, if necessary. Click here to learn more about how to clean your criminal record in California.
You should never try and talk your way out of the situation with officers. Officers will try and use anything and everything you says against you. It is best to just hold your tongue and request a lawyer.
4. Common defenses to criminal charges for possession of alcohol by a minor.
There are many defenses a good criminal lawyer can use to defend some accused of possession of alcohol as a minor in violation of Business and Professions Code §25662 including lack of possession, parental exception, and judicial diversion. Let's take a closer look at each of these defenses.
Lack of Possession –
As mentioned earlier, the prosecutor must demonstrate that you had possession of an alcoholic beverage. Although you do not have to physically possess the alcohol, there must be some showing of possession.
If the prosecutor is unable to show that you had possession of the alcoholic beverage, then the jury would not be able to find you guilty.
Following the Directions of A Parent –
It is a legal defense that the minor took possession of the alcohol because they were directed to do so by a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult relative for the purpose of disposing the alcoholic beverage.
Moreover, BPC 25662 does not apply to possession by a person under 21 years old who was making a delivery of an alcoholic beverage when directed to do so by a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult relative.
Judicial Diversion Pursuant to Penal Code §1001.95 –
Even if you are guilty, you should never plead guilty or admit guilt without first considering all your options. There are numerous options available to avoid having a conviction for BPC 25662, one such option is judicial diversion pursuant to penal code section 1001.95.
Judicial diversion is a program that allows a judge to pause the criminal proceedings against the defendant. While the proceedings are paused the judge will order the defendant to complete several tasks and comply with various court orders.
If the defendant completes all of the tasks and complies with all of the judge’s orders, then the case against the defendant must be dismissed. Moreover, any records of the case, including any police report or citation, must be sealed.
It is important to remember that every situation is different. If you or someone you love has been charged with violating BPC §25662 for allegedly being a minor in possession of alcohol, it is imperative that you contact an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer at JPLaw, P.C. as soon as possible.
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