Providing alcohol to a minor by buying it for them or selling it directly to the minor is a punishable offense, attracting many penalties. Moreover, it is unlawful to give your underaged child alcohol, regardless of whether it happens at home or elsewhere. The law provides specific punishment for each case where a minor gets access to alcohol, whether he/she got it from someone else's purchase or by himself/herself. Despite the existing regulations, it is common for defendants to face accusations for facts that do not accurately portray what went on. Thus, you may find yourself facing charges for an offense that you were not aware of committing, mainly because the minor in question lied.
Therefore, the different situations that lead to arrest and trial warrant the need for a criminal defense lawyer who will help you navigate your case for a good outcome. With your lawyer's help, you can prepare legal defenses and provide evidential sources to support your claims based on the case's circumstances. We at Leah Legal work hard to provide excellent legal services to our clients in Van Nuys, California, by creating open interactive sessions with them. Through the different meetings we hold with you, we will determine the cause of arrest and create personalized solutions to help you overcome the charges and resume your normal life.
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The Legal Definition of Vending or Providing Alcohol to Minors
Once a police officer arrests you for vending or providing alcoholic drinks to a person under 18 years, several repercussions could lead to prosecution. Therefore, you must understand the different elements that define the crimes to raise awareness of the kinds of arguments that the prosecutor is likely to present against you. In section 25658 of the California Business and Professional Code, it is an offense for either a vendor to sell alcohol to minors or for a minor to buy the drink by unlawful means. Consequently, the crime affects both the vendor and the receptor, who, in this case, is an underaged person.
Upon arraignment in court, your lawyer will guide you through the various requirements, including the plea-taking stage. We recommend pleading not guilty for the offense, especially if you can rely on your evidential sources. In doing so, you will allow your criminal defense attorney to present persuasive arguments that could secure your acquittal or significantly reduce the penalties issued. However, during the trial period, the prosecutor also makes his or her presentations against you, showing all admissible proof to persuade the judge to find you guilty.
Criminal trial processes place the burden of proof on the prosecutor, meaning that he/she will have to show that you are guilty of the charged offense beyond any reasonable doubt.
To do this, the prosecutor will have to prove that you engaged in all the crime elements relevant to your charge and therefore be answerable to the authorities. Since the standard of proof is high, the prosecutor must also strive to prove all elements, meaning that the case may be dismissed by failure to establish a single factor. Thus, your criminal defense lawyer should be keen to pick up on matters that can create reasonable doubt to prevent the trial's successful completion in the prosecutor's favor. The elements that the prosecutor must prove are:
You Provided or Sold Alcohol to a Person
Different scenarios could make up the first element of the crime, depending on your position as an offender. Normally, selling an alcoholic drink would require you to be an owner or employee in a liquor store or any other similar establishment. Subsequently, the prosecutor must prove that you could perform vending activities under the store owner's mandate or supervision.
Upon establishing that you were involved in running a Liquor store by selling drinks to different people, the prosecutor should also show that you engaged in a sale. A regular sale of items involves an offer and acceptance, whereby the customer will provide money in return for the goods. Moreover, a purchase receipt should be available for records and a copy issued to the buyer. Thus, the prosecutor will rely on such receipt records to show that you conducted the sale. Since most receipt formats also include the date and time of the purchase, the prosecutor can use the information to make an accurate establishment of the correct time of sale.
Alternatively, you may be an adult who does not work in a Liquor shop or supermarket but offered to buy the minor's alcohol. In such circumstances, the prosecutor should show that you either volunteered or gave in to the minor's requests to buy the alcohol for him/her. Therefore, following these requirements, the prosecutor must provide proof of you handing the drink to the underaged person. The evidential sources may come from witness statements, police reports that include observed facts before the arrest, or surveillance footage.
Regardless of the source used to prove your involvement in providing the minor with alcohol, your criminal defense lawyer can raise counterarguments to challenge the prosecutor's claims, especially during the prosecutor's witness cross-examination. Moreover, it is not sufficient to show that you handed alcohol to the minor, especially if there is no proof of him/her consuming it after. Therefore, your lawyer will have to observe the prosecutor's tactics and derive discord points to prevent the prosecutor from making exaggerated allegations.
The Person who Received the Alcohol was a Minor
It is also crucial for the prosecutor to prove that the alcohol receptor is minor for the California Business and Professional Code. The necessity of providing this element is paramount because establishing that the person in question was not a minor would lead to a case dismissal. Showing that a person is below the legal drinking age may be easy, depending on the kind of proof that the prosecutor chooses to rely on.
In most cases, the prosecution team will get in touch with the person who received the alcohol and request certified documents, including birth certificates, proof of school admission dates, and driver's license. Using these documents, the prosecutor can establish whether the person was a minor, and therefore unlawfully held to taking alcohol from you.
However, your criminal defense lawyer should remain keen enough on the prosecutor's documentary evidence to ensure that they are legitimate. Moreover, suppose there are any witnesses called to corroborate the documentary sources of evidence supplied by the prosecutor. In that case, it is necessary to cross-examine them, especially if you or your lawyer spot inconsistencies with their account of events concerning the minor in question's date of birth or school admission years.
Conversely, if you are a minor arrested for your unlawful engagements in buying alcohol, the prosecutor will likely engage your parents or guardians when trying to source evidence. Moreover, he/she may also approach you directly and ask you some questions to derive a conclusion on your underage position. Suppose you are to attend such interrogation sessions. In that case, we recommend getting in touch with your lawyer, who will ensure that the prosecutor does not impose irrelevant questions for you to answer. However, the process should not be too invasive, as it is usually not difficult to establish a person's age, especially if sufficient records exist to provide the necessary information.
You Consumed the Alcoholic Drink after Obtaining it
Proving that you took the alcohol applies when you, like the minor, are also party to the prosecution for the unlawful engagements. Thus, the prosecutor's focus will be showing that you opened the alcohol and took it, meaning that you violated statutory regulations completely. The prosecutor will be keen to show that you took the drink close to where you purchased it, even outside the premises. Showing this detail is important, as it rules out the possibility of you purchasing alcohol from another establishment and consuming it at a different location.
Typically, the prosecutor's claims will only succeed if sufficient evidence is available to support his/her shares. Thus, there may be video footage of you taking the alcohol, whether you were alone or in your friends' company. Moreover, the judge accepts evidence from sworn witnesses who saw you take the alcoholic drinks after buying it from a store or any other place where alcohol is available. If the judge accepts these sources of proof, the prosecutor is likely to succeed in showing your criminal indulgence.
You Faced Arrest During a Trapdoor Operation
As mentioned, many different circumstances lead to arrest for vending or providing alcohol to underage persons. Among these circumstances is when you, as a minor, face arrest for trying to enter a club or any other age-restricted area and trying to buy alcohol while there. Additionally, you are most likely to face arrest during such an operation for showing a fake Identification card or driver's license that you hope will give you access to the club.
There will be security officers at the club doors during a trapdoor operation whose work is to admit people into the establishment. These officers will be in coordination with the police to provide information on any minors' presence in the place. Therefore, once the security guards spot you and suspect you of being a minor, they will contact the police and stall you until the law enforcement officers arrive and take you in their custody.
When arraigned in court, the prosecutor will not have to do much to show that you were involved in the unlawful purchase of alcohol, since the facts serve as evidence that can attract penalties. However, the prosecutor must establish that you got hold of alcohol or were interested in purchasing before the police officers arrived at the club location to promote relevance in the charges you face.
You are a Vendor who Worked or Owned a Valid Alcohol-Selling Establishment
Where you are a vendor or an owner of an establishment selling alcohol, the prosecutor will have to prove that you have all the necessary licenses to conduct the business and sell alcohol to a minor. Moreover, the prosecutor will have to prove that you allowed the minor(s) to drink at your establishment by providing seats for them or even serving them.
In this case, any establishment from a hotel, a small drinking joint, or even a Liquor shop with a sitting area outside. Depending on the facts in your case, the prosecutor will also have to show that you knew the alcohol buyers were minors and provided the drinks. Conversely, even if you did not suspect that the person in question was underage, the court will not accept it as a defense, especially where you do not provide persuasive evidence to support your claims.
You Faced Arrest in an Undercover Operation
Moreover, law enforcement officers have a mandate to conduct occasional undercover operations that aim to capture adults who enable underage drinking by purchasing alcohol on behalf of minors. The California Bureau on Alcohol Control also partners with the police in such operations that target unmonitored outlets where minors may easily get away buying alcohol.
During an undercover operation, police officers often engage with an underage volunteer who works for them by approaching you and requesting you to buy alcohol for them. Although you will be unaware of the underlying plan, you will be guilty of an offense for proceeding to take money from the minor and buying the alcohol. Other times, the police may become directly involved by placing one of their younger-looking officials to conduct the same exercise to lure you into buying alcohol for them. It is beneficial for you to note that the prosecutor will still succeed in finding you guilty even if the officer was not a minor, as long as you believe he/she was one and bought alcohol after the requests.
Once the officers observe you providing alcohol to the minor, they will arrest you and detain you for the unlawful activity. During the trial, you may find it challenging to deny the charges against you, especially because of the overwhelming evidence that the undercover investigation officers present to the prosecutor. Nevertheless, with a criminal defense lawyer present, you can still raise several defenses that will lead to the acquittal of charges or mitigation of penalties.
Penalties for the Offense of Providing Alcohol to Underage Persons
The punishments issued after the prosecutor succeeds in showing your guilty engagements range based on the specific offense you are guilty of. The particular crimes and their penalties are:
Providing a Minor with Alcohol
Suppose you are an adult who enabled underage drinking by buying alcohol for a minor. In that case, the judge may order you to pay fines of up to $1,000 and provide twenty-four hours of community service in a coroner's office or at a medical treatment facility.
You may also face additional penalties if the minor you provided alcohol to sustained injuries from getting too drunk. You may receive a jail sentence ranging from six months to a year in county jail. You may also have to pay a $1000 fine.
Minors Buying Alcohol
If you are an underage defendant, you will likely receive a $250 fine penalty and up to thirty-two hours of community service for a first-time offense. You will receive additional penalties for subsequent violations, including $500 fines and forty-eight hours of community service.
Serving Alcoholic Drinks to Minors
When you are guilty of serving drinks to minors in an establishment, you will face a fifteen-day license suspension, meaning that you cannot operate your business during these fifteen days. Additionally, you are liable to meet all other penalties issued to adults enabling underage drinking.
Parents Providing Alcohol to Children
If found guilty of providing alcohol to your children, the judge will issue a one-year jail sentence or a payment of a $1000 fine.
Defenses Available for the Offense
Your criminal defense lawyer should prepare several defenses available for the case that will support your claims. The possible defenses include:
If you are a minor, you can plead an exception under B&P Code 25667 that excludes you from legal liability if you were the first to contact emergency medical services after consuming alcohol and facing adverse effects. However, you must ensure that you remain where an accident occurred until the medical professionals arrive. It is also important that you do not engage in drunk driving after consuming alcohol, as it will reduce your chances of using the defense.
Moreover, you can include B&P Code 25660 that provides exceptions for vendors who reasonably believed that the minor was not underage. Supposing the minor presented an identification card that appeared valid, the exception will be applied, as you had no means of scrutinizing the card to determine that it was fake.
Mistake of Fact
Sometimes, you may also escape liability by a genuine mistake of fact that the minor was of legal age. The error arises when the minor presents himself/herself more maturely by dressing or behaving like an adult. While this defense is acceptable, it is not always easy to convince the judge or jury about your genuine error. Hence, your lawyer must ensure that there is enough information to prove your honest mistake and absolve you of criminal liability.
Find a Criminal Defense Attorney Near Me
Facing a criminal arrest and trial is quite stressful, mainly because of the numerous procedures and requirements you must fulfill. Therefore, it helps to have a defense attorney who will support you throughout the trial process by raising defenses and counterarguments on your behalf. At Leah Legal, we provide legal services you can count on to help you combat criminal charges of providing alcohol to a minor. Call us at 818-484-1100 to get started with us today.