1005 N. Marion St.
Tampa, FL 33602
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Possession of Alcohol by a Person Under 21

Our goal in representing a young person in any possession of alcohol charge is getting the charges dismissed outright. These cases are often difficult for the prosecutors to prove at trial. With an aggressive defense, the prosecutor might agree to drop the charges outright. Although the prosecutor might offer the "misdemeanor diversion program" (often called "MIP"), getting the charges dropped outright is a better result. The outright dismissal option is more common for young people who are college students and have no prior record. Call 813-250-0500 to speak with us today about the case.

A favorite target for undercover officers in Florida is the person under the age of 21 who is in possession of an alcoholic beverage. In fact, entire sting operations are set up to catch as many young people as possible in a single night at a single location. Popular sting operations occur at local sporting events and concerts. Other sting operations focus on night clubs that allows young people over the age of 18 years old to enter. The young person who is most cooperative with the law enforcement officer is usually the one charged with this second degree misdemeanor. 

In a single night, one undercover officer can issue more than 20 criminal report affidavits (also called the "notice to appear"). Anyone charged with "possession of an alcoholic beverage" by a person under the age of 21 years old is faced with a criminal offense with criminal punishments on their criminal record. At the Sammis Law Firm, our lawyers defend high-school and college students charged under Florida law with minor in possession of an alcoholic beverage throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Tampa and Plant City, Hillsborough County, Florida.


Statistics in Underage Alcohol Possession Cases

The statistics released by the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office show that each year a high number of these cases are prosecuted at the Tampa or Plant City Courthouse. Most of the cases involved a "Notices to Appear" for underage drinking. How many notice to appear citations were issued in Hillsborough County for underaged possession of alcohol?

  • 2011 - 481
  • 2010 - 632
  • 2009 - 614
  • 2008 - 502
  • 2007 - 598
  • 2006 - 777
  • 2005 - 809

Officers also target college students at sporting events, especially tailgating parties outside football games for the local colleges including the University of South Tampa (USF) and the University of Tampa (UT). Any high school or college students cited for this criminal offense also face possible sanctions from their school which can lead to disciplinary action.


Sting Operations by HCSO's S.U.C.C.E.E.D

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office targets underage drinking. The sting operations are called the Sheriff's Underage Compliance Checks Education & Enforcement Detail Targeting (S.U.C.C.E.E.D.). Instead of helping young people succeed, the program often targets young people who are most cooperative with law enforcement offices including:

  1. those that talk to the officer instead of ending the consensual encounter;
  2. those who tell the officer their age; and
  3. those who hand the officer the alcoholic beverage when asked.

In fact, our of the last 8 sting operations at concerts in Hillsborough County, deputies have made a total of 51 underage possession arrests (including cases in which the young person was issued a notice to appear in court). During these sting operations, deputies with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office will do all of the following:

  1. Conduct alcohol and tobacco compliance checks; and
  2. Attend and monitor high capacity venues to reduce underage consumption and possession of alcohol (including concert and sporting events);

The S.U.C.C.E.E.D. Deputies work in a coordinated effort with other state or local agencies, including the Tampa Police Department, the University of South Florida Police Department, the Temple Terrace Police Department and the Plant City Police Department. The law enforcement officers work together to enforce laws against underage possession and consumption.


Disciplinary Actions by Local Colleges for Underage Possession of Alcohol

Disciplinary action by educational institutions throughout the Tampa Bay area can include expulsion or lesser sanctions such as suspension from school for a certain period of time, community service, and/or alcohol educational classes.

Important: Although this is a criminal offense with serious criminal penalties, important defenses might exist that can result in the charges being completely dismissed by the court or dropped by the prosecutor. No young person should walk into court to resolve the case without first meeting with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss the best way to resolve the case.

In many of these cases, the police target college students between the age of 18 and 21. Although drinking by anyone under the age of 21 is illegal and potentially dangerous, the effects of a criminal prosecution can be severe particularly to a young person pursuing an education and career opportunities. Young people pursuing a career as a teacher, certified educator, nurse, health care provider, lawyer, law enforcement officer or in the military are particularly impacted.

Although the consequences can be serious, Florida law also provides for important protections that can lead to the outright dismissal of charges by the court or the charges being dropped by the prosecutor.


Defenses to Underage Possession of Alcohol under Florida Law

Possible defenses under Florida law for offenses such as the underaged possession of an alcoholic beverage include:

  • dismissal on due process grounds when the law enforcement officer fails to preserve a sample of the alleged "alcoholic beverage." In fact, law enforcement officers rarely preserve a sample of the alcoholic beverage which often makes a successful prosecution much more difficult;
  • exclusion of all evidence and dismissal of the charges when the arresting officer illegally detains and interrogates the young person about the possession or consumption of the alcoholic beverage;
  • exclusion or suppression of evidence when the officer arrests the young person without "probable cause" to support the arrest;
  • exclusion of statements when the officer fails to read the young person Miranda warnings; or
  • dismissal of the charges when insufficient evidence exists to support a criminal prosecution.

At the Sammis Law Firm, our lawyers defend high school and college students charged under Florida law with possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21 years old throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Tampa and Plant City, Hillsborough County, Florida.

We also represent juveniles and young adults throughout the Tampa Bay area including Clearwater and St. Petersburg in Pinellas County, Lakeland and Bartow in Polk County, New Port Richey and Dade City in Pasco County, Brooksville in Hernando County, and Bradenton in Manatee County. Speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys today by calling 813-250-0500.


Florida Statute Section 562.111 - Underaged Possession of Alcohol

You should know the following about Florida law, statute section 562.111 for under age 21 possession of alcohol:

  • The crime is a second degree misdemeanor;
  • If convicted of alcohol possession by anyone under the age of 21, you can receive a fine of up to $500, which does not include additional expenses for court costs or cost of prosecution;
  • If convicted of under age 21 possession of alcohol you can be sentenced to up to sixty days in jail or six months probation; and
  • For any finding of guilt the trial judge MUST revoke your driver's license for at least six (6) months although the court is permitted to revoke your driver's license for up to 12 months.

Investigative Aides - Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be Snitches

Parents should be aware of the dangers of allowing their child to act as an under age snitch in alcohol and tobacco cases. Florida Law Enforcement Agencies use both undercover officers and "investigative aids" for sting operations to catch underage possession of alcohol crimes.

An investigative aide is a student between the age of 14 to 19 who must receive permission from their parent to act as an investigative aide in Florida. The parent must sign a permission affidavit and the investigative aide must sign an "Agreement of Understanding" which discusses the rules of conduct for the high school or college student participating in the program.

The investigative aide or undercover officer may conduct the sting operation and locations including:

  1. Grocery store or convenience stores;
  2. Restaurants;
  3. Hotels or Motels;
  4. Nightclubs;
  5. Liquor stores;
  6. Package stores; or
  7. Any other location that sells alcohol or tobacco products.

In many cases, the investigative aide is not properly trained or supervised during the investigation. In other cases, the law enforcement agency does not actually receive consent from the parent to put the child or young person to work as a snitch or investigative aide. Any mistake made by the investigative aide or law enforcement officer assigned to supervise the young person could result in the charges being dismissed.

The Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco is currently seeking volunteer investigative aids. For more information on the requirements of this program - click here to see the brochure called - "Become an Investigative Aide in Florida". Parents should think carefully about all of the pros and cons before allowing their child to participate in such a program.

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Read the Statutes on Underage 21 Possession of Alcohol

Florida Statute 562.111 for Possession of Alcoholic Beverages by Person Under Age 21

Florida Statute 322.056 for Driver's License Revocation or Suspension for Under Age 21 Possession of Alcohol

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Information for Parents Needing Services for a Child Found in Possession of an Alcoholic Beverage

Department from the University of South Florida Prevention Research Center - Outlines the problems with underage drinking and possession of alcohol.

University of Tampa and Under Age 21 Possession of Alcohol - Message from Dean of Students to parents with tips on the student's first year.

We Don't Serve Teens: A National Campaign to Prevent Underage Drinking - This website provides parents and others with tools and information to reduce teen drinking and related harm including important and statistics.

The Century Council - founded in 1991 by distillers. The Century Council is a national, non-profit organization formed to educate the public about the harms from underaged possession of alcohol and drunk driving. Information on under age drinking statistics, stories, and laws across the nation. Chaired by the Honorable Susan Molinari, the Century Council acts an an independent National Advisory Board made up of leaders in the law, education, business, medicine, government, and business.

Underaged Drinking Checks in Tampa / Plant City, Hillsborough County - Learn more about how the deputies at the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office targets underage drinking and sales of alcohol to minors to help our youth “S.U.C.C.E.E.D” (Sheriff’s Underage Compliance Checks Education & Enforcement Detail). Many of these targeted enforcement efforts occur at high capacity venues like concerts and sporting events. The two most recent underaged drinking details occurred at the Fairgrounds - Amphitheater on Saturday August 1, 2015 for the Toby Keith Good Times & Pick Up Lines Tour and Saturday, August 22, 2015 for the Tim McGraw: Shotgun Rider Tour with Billy Currington & Chase Bryant concert.

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Florida Statute Section 562.111

Under Age 21 Possession of Alcoholic Beverages

(1) It is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 years, except a person employed under the provisions of s. 562.13 acting in the scope of her or his employment, to have in her or his possession alcoholic beverages, except that nothing contained in this subsection shall preclude the employment of any person 18 years of age or older in the sale, preparation, or service of alcoholic beverages in licensed premises in any establishment licensed by the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco or the Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 562.45, any person under the age of 21 who is convicted of a violation of this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083; however, any person under the age of 21 who has been convicted of a violation of this subsection and who is thereafter convicted of a further violation of this subsection is, upon conviction of the further offense, guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.

(2) The prohibition in this section against the possession of alcoholic beverages does not apply to the tasting of alcoholic beverages by a student who is at least 18 years of age, who is tasting the alcoholic beverages as part of the student's required curriculum at a post-secondary educational institution that is institutionally accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education and that is licensed or exempt from licensure pursuant to the provisions of chapter 1005 or is a public post-secondary education institution; if the student is enrolled in the college and is tasting the alcoholic beverages only for instructional purposes during classes that are part of such a curriculum; if the student is allowed only to taste, but not consume or imbibe, the alcoholic beverages; and if the alcoholic beverages at all times remain in the possession and control of authorized instructional personnel of the college who are 21 years of age or older.

(3) In addition to any other penalty imposed for a violation of subsection (1), the court shall direct the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to withhold issuance of, or suspend or revoke, the violator's driver's license or driving privilege, as provided in s. 322.056.

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Florida Statute Section 322.056

Mandatory revocation or suspension of, or delay of eligibility for, driver's license for persons under age 18 found guilty of certain alcohol, drug, or tobacco offenses; prohibition.--

(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 322.055, if a person under 18 years of age is found guilty of or delinquent for a violation of s. 562.11(2), s. 562.111, or chapter 893, and:
(a) The person is eligible by reason of age for a driver's license or driving privilege, the court shall direct the department to revoke or to withhold issuance of his or her driver's license or driving privilege for a period of:
1. Not less than 6 months and not more than 1 year for the first violation.
2. Two years, for a subsequent violation.
(b) The person's driver's license or driving privilege is under suspension or revocation for any reason, the court shall direct the department to extend the period of suspension or revocation by an additional period of:
1. Not less than 6 months and not more than 1 year for the first violation.
2. Two years, for a subsequent violation.
(c) The person is ineligible by reason of age for a driver's license or driving privilege, the court shall direct the department to withhold issuance of his or her driver's license or driving privilege for a period of:
1. Not less than 6 months and not more than 1 year after the date on which he or she would otherwise have become eligible, for the first violation.
2. Two years after the date on which he or she would otherwise have become eligible, for a subsequent violation.

However, the court may, in its sound discretion, direct the department to issue a license for driving privileges restricted to business or employment purposes only, as defined in s. 322.271, if the person is otherwise qualified for such a license.

(2) If a person under 18 years of age is found by the court to have committed a noncriminal violation under s. 569.11 and that person has failed to comply with the procedures established in that section by failing to fulfill community service requirements, failing to pay the applicable fine, or failing to attend a locally available school-approved anti-tobacco program, and:
(a) The person is eligible by reason of age for a driver's license or driving privilege, the court shall direct the department to revoke or to withhold issuance of his or her driver's license or driving privilege as follows:
1. For the first violation, for 30 days.
2. For the second violation within 12 weeks of the first violation, for 45 days.
(b) The person's driver's license or driving privilege is under suspension or revocation for any reason, the court shall direct the department to extend the period of suspension or revocation by an additional period as follows:
1. For the first violation, for 30 days.
2. For the second violation within 12 weeks of the first violation, for 45 days.
(c) The person is ineligible by reason of age for a driver's license or driving privilege, the court shall direct the department to withhold issuance of his or her driver's license or driving privilege as follows:
1. For the first violation, for 30 days.
2. For the second violation within 12 weeks of the first violation, for 45 days.
Any second violation of s. 569.11 not within the 12-week period after the first violation will be treated as a first violation and in the same manner as provided in this subsection.

(3) If a person under 18 years of age is found by the court to have committed a third violation of s. 569.11 within 12 weeks of the first violation, the court must direct the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to suspend or withhold issuance of his or her driver's license or driving privilege for 60 consecutive days. Any third violation of s. 569.11 not within the 12-week period after the first violation will be treated as a first violation and in the same manner as provided in subsection (2).

(4) A penalty imposed under this section shall be in addition to any other penalty imposed by law.

(5) The suspension or revocation of a person's driver's license imposed pursuant to subsection (2) or subsection (3), shall not result in or be cause for an increase of the convicted person's, or his or her parent's or legal guardian's, automobile insurance rate or premium or result in points assessed against the person's driving record.

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Finding an Attorney for Underaged Possession of Alcohol Prosecutions

If you have been charged under Florida law with the criminal offense of possession of an alcoholic beverage while under the age of 21, contact an experienced attorney at the Sammis Law Firm. Whether you were formally arrested or given a notice to appear, find out more about your rights before you take any action.

Our lawyers are proud to defend high school and college students charged under Florida law with unlawful alcohol possession throughout the greater Tampa Bay area including Clearwater and St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, Plant City and Tampa, Hillsborough County, Dade City and New Port Richey, Pasco County, Bartow, Polk County, Bradenton, Manatee County and Brooksville, Hernando County, Florida.

Call 813-250-0500 today to speak with a juvenile defense attorney at the Sammis Law Firm representing those under 21 against accusations of illegal possession or consumption of an alcoholic beverage.


This article was last updated September 14, 2016.