Underage drinking in New York State is strongly discouraged, especially when motor vehicles are involved. Drivers under 21 account for less than 10% of licensed drivers, but still cause 14% of DUI related fatalities in the state, according to a survey conducted by the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. This disproportionate number of alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities can result in harsher penalties for underage drinkers.
- State Penalties for Underage Drinking:
Underage drinkers can face multiple charges for offenses related to the purchase, possession, and consumption of alcohol as well as using fake IDs to obtain it. Under the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law (ABC), anyone under the age of 21 who buys or attempts to buy alcohol can be fined up to $100 and / or be sentenced to up to 30 hours of community service for a first offense. Second offenses can draw a fine between $50 and $350 and community service. A third offense is punishable by a fine of between $50 and $750 and/or community service, along with a required alcohol awareness course. If someone under 21 uses fake identification to buy liquor, New York will suspend their driver’s license. Minors caught driving while under the influence face a suspended license and a fine of up to $125, with an additional $100 fee upon getting their license back.
- When is the best time to act?:
People charged for any offenses related to underage drinking should contact a criminal defense attorney who can assist them by raising mitigating factors, such as lack of a prior record, to obtain a more lenient sentence or to get the charges dismissed.
- Related Crimes:
Creating a fake ID is Forgery in the Second Degree, and possessing one is Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument in the Second Degree, both of which are Class D felonies punishable by 1-7 years in prison. Fake IDs can also result in charges of False Impersonation and Criminal Impersonation in the Second Degree.
- Difference between New York State and Federal statutes:
Federal regulations allow minors to possess alcohol for a recognized religious purpose; when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian age 21 or older; for medical purposes, and in private establishments. Those under 21 are also permitted to handle and / or serve alcohol as part of their lawful employment. Minimum drinking age laws on Federal properties mirror those of the surrounding state, with some exceptions for military bases, where the commanding officer can waive the requirement in certain circumstances. If the military base is located in more than one state or within 50 miles of another state, Canada, or Mexico, the minimum age may be set at the lowest legal drinking age.
- Successful Defenses:
There are exceptions to the prohibition against underage drinking. Minors may consume alcohol if the consumption of liquor is required in school courses i.e. wine tasting. In New York, if a parent or guardian chooses to give their child liquor in moderate quantities, it is not illegal.
- High profile/Government cases:
In April 2012 Scout Willis, 20, the daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, was arrested in New York for underage drinking. She was drinking outdoors in Union Square and first tried to provide fake identification to the transit policeman who questioned her. Willis was charged with criminal impersonation and violating New York's open container law, both misdemeanors.