Think about every teen comedy movie you’ve ever seen. Almost invariably, there’s a scene involving a party during which some kid’s parents are out of town and what looks like his or her entire high school comes over for drunken shenanigans. A big chunk of pop culture seems to glamorize underage drinking as a rite of passage, while at the same time real world teens are being warned about its dangers.
Data show that tens of thousands of Ohio minors illegally consume alcohol at some point. A congressional report on underage drinking found in a survey of Ohio teens ages 15 to 17 that 24.3 percent had used alcohol within month preceding the survey, and 16.2 percent had reported binge drinking within the previous month. Among adolescents ages 12 to 14, 5.1 percent had reported drinking in the preceding month, and 2.6 percent had reported binge drinking.
What the movies never seem to show are the consequences of underage drinking. The police might show up at the house party, but the movie’s heroes are able to duck out in the knick of time. Those movies rarely show teenagers getting arrested, detained in juvenile hall, or having to go through the juvenile court process. In the real world, when a minor is caught in possession of alcohol in Ohio, he or she faces some potentially serious consequences.
However, with the help of an experienced Ohio juvenile criminal lawyer, an arrest for alcohol possession doesn’t have to ruin a young person’s life. A good lawyer may be able to get the charge resolved outside of a juvenile courtroom, or convince a judge that a minor who made a mistake — perhaps under the influence of peer pressure — deserves leniency.
How Ohio Handles Juvenile Alcohol Possession Charges
It’s illegal in Ohio for anyone under 21 to possess alcohol. There are a few exceptions to the law that include:
- Under the supervision of a parent, adult spouse, or guardian
- When furnished by a physician in the course of the physician’s practice, such as a cough syrup or other medication that may contain alcohol
- For religious purposes, such as wine for communion
If none of those exceptions applies, a minor in possession of alcohol faces a 1st degree misdemeanor charge. For anyone 18 to 21, that means a possible jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $1,000.
However, things work a little differently when the offender is a juvenile under age 18. As a general rule, juveniles aren’t charged with crimes per se, but rather with delinquency or with being an “unruly child.”
Minor in possession of alcohol, sometimes referred to by law enforcement as MIP, is what is known as a status offense. That means it wouldn’t be a crime if committed by an adult, or in this case someone over 21. In other words, it’s only an offense because of the juvenile’s age and not because the behavior — possessing alcohol — is broadly prohibited to everyone.
When a juvenile is arrested for possession of alcohol or MIP, the case goes to an Ohio juvenile court. In many instances, a skilled Ohio juvenile criminal lawyer may be able to get the case resolved out of court. The juvenile may have to meet some conditions, such as performing community service or going through alcohol abuse treatment if that’s appropriate.
If the case does go to juvenile court, a good juvenile defense lawyer may be able to convince a judge to assign probation or another alternative to detention. Ohio Rev. Code 4301.69 states that a court may order a minor under 18 who is charged with possession of alcohol into a diversion program. If the juvenile completes the program, the court dismisses the complaint against the juvenile and seals the juvenile’s record.
In relatively rare instances — usually if the juvenile is a repeat offender — the juvenile may be committed to a youth detention facility. However, the overall goal of the juvenile justice system is to rehabilitate a child or teen and to help them learn to make better, more responsible choices as they grow into adulthood. A lawyer can be a strong voice for an adolescent in the system and look out for his or her best interests in the system.
Juvenile Alcohol Possession and Driver’s License Suspensions
Regardless of any penalty imposed by the juvenile court, when a minor under 18 possesses alcohol, Ohio Rev. Code 4301.99 requires that the juvenile’s driver’s license be suspended for 6 months to 1 year. If the juvenile is at least 15 ½ years old and hasn’t gotten a temporary permit or driver’s license yet, he or she is prohibited from obtaining driving privileges for 6 months.
If the juvenile is 15 or younger, he or she won’t be allowed to get a temporary permit until he or she turns 16, instead of the usual rule that says he or she can get a temporary permit at age 15 ½. Effectively, the teenager experiences a 6-month ban on his or her ability to obtain driving privileges.
Defending Cincinnati Juvenile Alcohol Possession Charges
If your child or teen has been arrested for possession of alcohol, an experienced Cincinnati juvenile criminal lawyer may be able to help your juvenile avoid some potentially long-term consequences. A good lawyer will listen to the juvenile’s side of story, be an advocate for his or her best interest in court, and work to get the outcome that helps the juvenile avoid trouble in the future.