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Possession Of Alcohol By Minor

Possession of Alcohol Charges in Connecticut

Fairfield County’s suburbs have been troubled by an increase of teenaged drinking parties taking place in private homes and on public property. Frustrated with the widespread problem of underaged drinking and its danger to the community and roads, the Connecticut legislature has enacted a number of laws which attempt to deter teenagers and individuals under 21 years of age from drinking or distributing alcoholic beverages. They have enacted laws which carry stiff fines and in some cases, attempt to hit teenagers where it hurts most—imposing a suspension of their driver’s licenses. But do stiff driver’s license suspension hit kids hard, or do they mostly affect their parents, many of whom now have to shuttle their children around while juggling hectic work and child care schedules.

Is Possession of Alcohol a Crime?

Possession of Alcohol by a Minor in Connecticut is codified in Connecticut General Statutes § 30-89. Violating this law is not a crime—rather, it is an infraction which carries a fine of up to $500 per violation. The police will usually seize the alcohol and hand you a ticket for this infraction. The instructions on the ticket will explain that you can (a) plead “guilty” and mail in your fine payment (or pay online), or (b) mail in a “not guilty” plea and later be informed of a court date.

Most teenagers and their parents mail in the guilty plea because it’s quick, cheap, and easy. They are baited by the language on the ticket that doing so does not result in a Connecticut criminal conviction. However, they are not aware of the collateral consequences: a driver’s license suspension and exposure to increased car insurance premiums. Thus, for all of the reasons explained below, the juvenile and alcohol possession criminal lawyers and attorneys at Mark Sherman Law strongly advise you to contact us to discuss pleading not guilty. We can sit with you and discuss how we can explore alternatives to a guilty plea with the goal of getting your child’s case dismissed.

DMV Consequences for Pleading Guilty to Possession of Alcohol by a Minor

Not only will you be fined for pleading guilty to the a C.G.S. § 30-89 Possession of Alcohol by a Minor charge, but the plea will also be referred to the Connecticut DMV and the minor’s driver’s license will be suspended for 30 days. If the police discovered alcohol in the minor’s automobile, then the suspension will be for 60 days. And if the minor does not have a driver’s license, then once the minor is eligible to apply for a license, the DMV will then suspend those eligibility privileges for 150 days.

Do the consequences of a guilty plea to these charges sound harsh? That’s because they are. In Connecticut lawmakers’ eyes, they traded the severity of the charge (reducing it from a crime to an infraction) for stiffer DMV consequences, hoping that the threat to teenagers of losing their license would deter underage drinking. And as if you were not burdened with enough fines and fees, all of these suspensions require you to pay a $175 license restoration fee to the DMV.

The problem with all of these consequences is that it lays more of a burden on the parents of Connecticut children charged with possession of alcohol by a minor. That’s why the Mark Sherman Law criminal attorneys encourage you to consider fighting these tickets. If a resolution can be worked out in Stamford, Norwalk or Bridgeport Court that does not require a guilty plea to these 30-89 tickets, then it is worth making the phone call to our offices.

Auto Insurance Premium Consequences

The Connecticut DMV’s involvement in alcohol possession charges is not just limited to the suspension of your driving privileges. Convictions for these alcohol-related crimes and any affiliated license suspensions become part of your permanent driving history, which is subject to annual review by your automobile insurance carrier. It is hard enough these days finding affordable car insurance for your Connecticut teenager. Once an auto insurance carrier discovers a C.G.S. § 30-89 possession of alcohol by a minor conviction—which results from checking the “guilty” box and sending in the modest fine—your teenager’s insurance premiums can skyrocket. And in some worst case scenarios, the insurance carrier will cancel your child’s policy altogether. For these reasons, it is critical for you to call a top criminal lawyer in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, Wilton and New Canaan to help you fight your Possession of Alcohol by a Minor charges.

Criminal Exposure For Parents Hosting Alcohol Parties

Fairfield County parents in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien and New Canaan frequently call us, asking if it is legal for them to serve alcohol to teenagers so long as it is done safely, and in the privacy of their own home. From their perspective, their kids are going to experiment and drink alcohol and they would much rather supervise them and keep them safe and off the roads rather than have them sneak around town between keg and block parties. Connecticut law, however, does not allow for this and there are stiff penalties for providing alcohol to minors.

Connecticut General Statutes § 30-86(b)(2) prohibits “any person” to provide alcoholic liquor to anyone under 21 years old. This is a felony charge which carries penalties of up to 18 months in prison. When children under 16 are provided alcohol—or are even in the house at one of these parties—then Connecticut police and prosecutors in Stamford, Norwalk and Bridgeport will usually charge parents for felony Risk of Injury to a Minor Child under Connecticut General Statues § 53-21(a)(1). This charge carries a maximum penalty of ten years in jail. Obviously the stakes are high for parents. Thus if you find yourself facing illegal distribution of alcohol or Risk of Injury charges under § 30-86 or § 53-21, it is important that you consult with a Stamford or Greenwich criminal lawyer as soon as possible.

Fighting Possession of Alcohol by a Minor Charges

The Risk of Injury and Alcohol Possession criminal lawyers at Mark Sherman Law are experienced in fighting these charges. We sit down with you and your child and conduct an extensive and thorough intake. We carefully review the police reports for inaccuracies and errors. In fact, our two-attorney review process ensures that no details are overlooked. We analyze the search and seizure techniques administered by the police, and if there are grounds to challenge the constitutionality of the search and seizure process in your case, then we will move to suppress any illegally obtained evidence. Many times police will search a teenager’s car and find contraband—whether this was done properly and with respect for the driver’s constitutional rights is an issue we scrutinize with the utmost care.

Civil Liability

One last issue that we are often consulted on in this area of law is the potential liability of parents for hosting (either knowingly or unknowingly) teenage drinking parties. Perhaps the most frequent question is whether parents can be civilly liable for parties at their homes in Stamford, New Canaan, Greenwich and Darien while the parents are out of town or out for the evening and they had no knowledge of the party in the first place.

The answer, unfortunately, is Yes, under some circumstances. Parents have a legal duty to reasonably supervise their minor children, and not leave alcohol out in their homes for their kids to consume. If parents have accumulated a moderate degree of wealth and assets, and a fight breaks out an underage drinking party at their home, or a child drinks and leave the home and gets into a DUI accident causing serious injury, then the parents owning the home where the party was hosted are at risk of a serious civil lawsuit and possibly asset attachment.

Contact Us Today

Clearly the stakes are high for parents and children in Fairfield County, Connecticut when it comes to underage drinking, and alcohol possession and distribution. So if you have been issued a 30-89 ticket for Possession of Alcohol by a Minor, a 30-86 ticket for Distribution of Alcohol or charged with Felony Risk of Injury to a Minor in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Norwalk, or New Canaan, please call an attorney at Mark Sherman Law to learn how we can help you. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at (203) 358-4700.

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