Getting to know yourself and making mistakes while trying new things is part of young adulthood. While the world doesn’t expect you to live a perfect life, some missteps in judgment can have serious consequences. In light of this, you may be wondering, what is the charge for underage drinking in Virginia?
The state of Virginia classifies Underage Drinking as a criminal charge. It is a Class 1 misdemeanor that could carry penalties of a $2,500 fine and a year in jail. There’s a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or 50 hours of community service and a 6–12 month license suspension.
In Virginia, ‘underage possession of alcohol’ includes:
- Having it in your system, which can be proven through admission to an officer
- A BAC test
- displaying signs of drunkenness.
The state of Virginia is strict on underage drinking and a large amount of the cases at Battlefield Law Group PLLC often deal with some form of a DUI charge. Let’s look at Virginia underage drinking laws according to the Code of Virginia Section 4.1-305(A).
What is considered an alcoholic beverage under Virginia law?
According to Virginia Law Section 4.1-100, alcoholic beverages include wine, spirits, alcohol, and beer. Moreover, alcohol includes any of these varieties that contain 0.005+ percent of alcohol in volume, including mixed alcoholic beverages that contain wine, beer, spirits, or alcohol and that humans can consume.
Virginia underage drinking laws
What is underage drinking in Virginia?
The state’s description of a minor illegally consuming alcohol boils down to several basic points. It’s illegal for a minor, under the age of 21, to:
- Purchase alcohol regardless of the circumstances
- Drink alcohol, except when on private property, with a guardian’s consent
- Possess alcohol except for when making a delivery or serving, such as a waiter or waitress
- Work as a bartender except in a business that only sells beer
What happens if you sell alcohol to a minor in Virginia?
The consequences of furnishing a minor with alcohol vary depending on whether you were aware the individual was a minor or not.
If you knew the individual was underage and gave them alcohol, the state treats the offense as a Class 1 misdemeanor that carries up to 12 months in jail and a fine capped at $2,500. The loss of a job frequently goes hand-in-hand with this offense. Employees who sell alcohol to a minor, but do not ask to see identification to confirm their age, are charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor, which attracts a maximum fine of $500.
What happens if you get caught drinking and driving under 21 in Virginia?
Virginia has zero-tolerance laws for underage motorists that drink and drive. Individuals under 21 years can face DUI charges if found with even 0.02% BAC levels. Generally, DUI in Virginia carries similar consequences as underage drinking since it’s a Class 1 misdemeanor.
If a police officer suspects you of a DUI, they can stop you and conduct a field sobriety test like a Breathalyzer. Refusing to take the Breathalyzer test can attract other consequences, including an automatic 12-month license suspension. Moreover, refusing a breathalyzer test might be used to prove your guilt in court.
Do you qualify for restricted driving privileges?
When your motor vehicle license is suspended, you might qualify for restricted driving privileges. The judge may grant the restricted license during your sentencing, but you can file a petition for the same if they don’t. There are no guarantees the judge will give you these privileges.
With these privileges, you can drive to specific spots at specified times. Usually, judges outline the conditions when issuing the privilege. One such condition is that an alcohol safety action program monitors you.
If you defy the stipulated conditions, you may lose your privileges and even face extra charges.
Can an underage drinking charge be expunged in Virginia?
Usually, it cannot. But if it’s your first serious criminal offense and you are 18+ years, you might qualify for the first offender deferment program. When a judge puts you on this program, you are on probation for 6-12 months.
During this period, you are expected to enter a treatment or education program, undergo regular alcohol and drug testing, complete community service, and any other court-ordered activity. When you complete the program, the court might dismiss the charges.
But this isn’t the same as expungement since the charge will still appear on background checks as dismissed.
For your charges to be expunged, the prosecutor should have dropped the case, or the court found you not guilty. Moreover, you need to prove to a judge that if the charges remain on your record, your life will be impacted in a way that constitutes manifest injustice.
Note: the state of Virginia doesn’t expunge DUI convictions. Usually, only the arrest and the charge presented can be removed from your record. However, only charges that don’t lead to convictions count.
What happens if you take alcohol to school?
Virginia requires the school to inform the local law enforcement agency when any student commits an offense involving alcohol. As a minor, you’ll face both criminal and school disciplinary action. This means the school might place you on probation, expel or suspend you, deny financial aid, or enroll you into a rehabilitation program and still go to court for criminal charges.
Anyone caught consuming or in possession of alcohol on public school grounds can be jailed for six months or fined a maximum of $1,000.
Legal drinking age in Virginia
For many years, the legal drinking age was 21 years. In 1974 Virginia lowered the legal drinking age for wine and beer to 18 years, only to later increase it to 21 years in 1985.
Why is the Minimum Drinking Age 21 Years in Virginia?
The change in 1985 was to comply with the 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act that needed every state to increase their legal drinking age to 21 years. Failure to comply with this law at the time meant losing highway funds provided under the Federal Highway Act.
Aside from this, younger adults who drink and drive, die in larger numbers than older adult drivers. In Virginia, licensed drivers under 21 years constitute under 10 percent of all drivers. However, they account for about 14 percent of fatalities related to DUIs. For legislators and parents, the risks are too high.
Is it legal for a minor to drink alcohol at home in Virginia?
Virginia law allows minors to drink alcohol in a private residence with the permission of their parents or guardians. However, no other person aside from the children of the present parents or guardians should be served alcohol.
Can an 18-year old serve alcohol in Virginia?
In Virginia, bartenders should be 21 years old. However, young adults 18 years old and above can serve or sell beer at the counter in an establishment that only sells beer.
Contact an experienced DUI attorney
Virginia treats underage drinking as a serious crime and imposes serious consequences for the minors and adults who provide these minors with alcohol. These consequences include hefty fines, community service, or jail time.
Even worse, if a charge leads to a conviction, it cannot be expunged. The best any such person can get is dismissal after proving the record of the charge impacts your life enough to constitute manifest injustice. Alternatively, if the charges get dropped, you qualify for expungement. As such, it pays to have the experienced attorneys at Battlefield Law Group PLLC, who understand Virginia underage drinking laws, in your corner.