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If you're under the age of 21 and live in Florida, it's crucial to understand the state's laws regarding the possession of alcoholic beverages. The consequences can be serious, affecting everything from your criminal record to future employment opportunities. In this piece, we'll take a look at Florida Statute 562.111 to provide you with the details you need to know.
What The Law Says
According to Section 562.111 of the 2023 Florida Statutes, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to possess alcoholic beverages. There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as those employed under Section 562.13, typically involving work in licensed establishments like bars or restaurants. Violating this law is a criminal offense, punishable as a misdemeanor.
Exceptions To The Rule
Although the law is quite clear about underage possession, it does make allowances for certain situations. For example, if you're at least 18 years old and are part of a curriculum at an accredited postsecondary educational institution, you are permitted to "taste" alcohol for instructional purposes. This must be during a class that is part of the curriculum and must not involve consuming or imbibing alcoholic beverages.
Penalties For First-Time Offenders
Getting caught with alcohol as a minor is classified as a misdemeanor of the second degree. According to the Florida Statutes, this could mean up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
Repeat Offenders Face Harsher Penalties
If you've already been convicted of underage alcohol possession and are caught again, the charge escalates to a misdemeanor of the first degree. The penalties for this include up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
For those employed under the provisions of Section 562.13, acting in the scope of employment offers some protection. This would include serving alcohol in a licensed venue like a restaurant or a bar. Individuals 18 years or older can legally be employed to sell, prepare, or serve alcoholic beverages in such establishments.
The law also carves out an exception for academic purposes. Students 18 or older enrolled in accredited educational institutions may taste alcohol as part of their curriculum. However, this doesn't mean you can take a sip and enjoy it; the tasting must strictly be for instructional purposes, and the alcohol must remain in the control of authorized personnel aged 21 or older.
Defenses To Underage Alcohol Possession In Florida
Being charged with underage possession of alcohol under Florida Statute 562.111 can be a serious event in anyone's life, especially for young individuals looking to avoid a criminal record. You may be wondering: are there any defenses that could apply based on this statute? The answer is yes. Let's delve into some of the specific defenses that could be used in a case involving underage alcohol possession.
Lack Of Possession
In legal terms, "possession" can either be actual or constructive. Actual possession means you had the alcohol in your hand, in a container, or within easy reach. Constructive possession means that while you didn't have the alcohol directly on you, it was in a place where you had control over it or the ability to access it. Being able to prove that you neither had actual nor constructive possession could serve as a defense.
Although not a foolproof defense, there may be instances where you genuinely believed you were allowed to possess alcohol due to an age misunderstanding. However, it's important to note that ignorance of the law is generally not considered a strong defense.
Fourth Amendment Violations
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. If the alcohol was discovered as a result of an illegal search by law enforcement, the evidence could be deemed inadmissible in court. For this defense to apply, it would be crucial to show that there was no probable cause for the search that led to the discovery of the alcoholic beverage.
Frequently Asked Questions About Underage Alcohol Possession In Florida
What Are The Penalties For First-Time Offenders?
A first-time offense is considered a misdemeanor of the second degree. This can result in up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
What Happens If I'm A Repeat Offender?
If you're caught more than once, the charge escalates to a misdemeanor of the first degree. The penalties for this include up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
Are There Any Exceptions For Employment?
Yes, if you are 18 years or older and working in a role that involves the sale, preparation, or service of alcoholic beverages in a licensed establishment, you're generally exempt from this law while performing your job duties.
Is There A Student Exception?
Yes, students who are at least 18 and are enrolled in an accredited post-secondary institution can taste alcohol for instructional purposes, given that the alcohol remains in the control of authorized personnel who are over 21.
What Does "Taste" Mean In The Academic Exception?
The law specifies that students can "taste" but not "consume or imbibe" the alcohol. This means you can have a small amount to understand its characteristics but cannot drink it in the way one normally would.
Can The Police Search Me Without Reason?
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. If you believe the police searched you without probable cause, any evidence obtained may be considered inadmissible in court.
What Defenses Could Be Available To Me?
Common defenses include demonstrating you were acting within the scope of employment, utilizing the academic exception, proving you didn't actually possess the alcohol, or showing that your Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
What Should I Do If I'm Charged?
If you're charged under Florida Statute 562.111, the first thing you should do is consult an experienced criminal defense attorney to assess your case and help navigate the legal proceedings.
Overwhelmed? Let A Criminal Defense Attorney Navigate The Legal Labyrinth For You!
Legal proceedings can be overwhelming and emotionally draining. Let experienced underage alcohol possession lawyers from The Watson Firm, PLLC help you through the labyrinth of the criminal defense system. Based in FL, our criminal defense attorneys are committed to providing you with the most favorable possible defense. Call (850) 607-2929 or reach out to us online to get the guidance you desperately need.
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