Underage Drinking in California: What You Need to Know

It is illegal, in California, for those under 21 years of age to consume alcohol. As the holidays are around the corner, and school breaks leave minors with extra time on their hands, it is not uncommon for underage drinking to occur. However, if a minor is caught with alcohol or trying to purchase it, they may face criminal charges and need an expert defense attorney to help them. The state of California takes minor in possession charges seriously. Working with someone experienced is the only way to ensure the most favorable outcome, giving someone underage the highest chance of recovering from this scary experience.

Minors in Possession

Californians must know the laws about underage drinking and what is at risk with a conviction. It is essential to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney immediately if your minor has been charged with possession.

Most people think of a group of rowdy teenagers who somehow got their hands on alcohol when they think about minors in possession. On the contrary, most often, the substance is willingly provided to the minor by a parent or family member, especially during the holidays. Innocently, family members offer sips of beer or a champagne toast on New Year's Eve. The state takes it seriously if a minor is caught drinking in public in California.

Underage Drinking is No Joke

Holding, consuming, and trying to get alcohol all fall under California’s underage drinking laws. Minor in possession charges are typically misdemeanors, including time in court, fines, community service, and diversion programs. Adding anything to a minor’s criminal record should be avoided at any cost! This is not the time to believe that this will teach the minor a lesson. In most first-offender cases, the arrest and experience have been enough to deter the minor from repeating it.

Minor Cases Handled by Juvenile Court

If the minor is under 18, the case will be handled by California Juvenile Court. Instead of a jury trial, the case will be determined in a hearing. If the judge allows the charges to stand, that is a guilty verdict and will become part of the juvenile's criminal record.

Defenses Against Underage Drinking

There are three common defenses used when fighting underage drinking charges. The first defense that an excellent criminal defense attorney will explore is that the minor did not possess the alcohol or was acting within the law delivering it under orders from a guardian. Another common defense against minors in possession charges is when alcohol or another controlled substance is discovered during an illegal search. The third most common defense is if a minor does call 911 to report the need for medical attention and is caught in possession of alcohol when authorities arrive. Although these are the three most common defenses, an experienced minor in possession criminal defense attorney will not stop there but continue to fight relentlessly from all angles to get the most beneficial outcome.


First-time offenders will face misdemeanors. If convicted, these charges can carry fines from $250 and up, with license suspension for up to a year. Those minors facing repeat offenses will face more substantial penalties and have less favor in the court without excellent legal representation. An exceptional criminal defense attorney experienced in minor in possession charges in California will fight evidence to get charges reduced or dismissed. In some cases, depending on the details, the case may be dismissed entirely. Significantly reduced charges and well-negotiated consequences can protect your minor from the adverse long-term effects of a conviction. Only someone with experience and knowledge interpreting the law can get the best possible outcome.

Summons to Appear

There are instances where minors may be summoned to appear in court on charges of drinking underage. Receiving a summons is disconcerting, mainly since no arrest occurred. Often people are taken by surprise when served with a summons to appear. If your minor is caught possessing, consuming, or attempting to gain access to alcohol before age 21, call to learn more about how to get your child into a diversion program, get the charges dismissed, and remove the incident from your child's record.

First-time offenders can most often participate in the state's drinking diversion program. It is essential to hire a private attorney who specializes in minor in possession charges to negotiate any term to ensure the most favorable outcome.

If your minor is facing charges related to underage drinking in San Diego County, there is no better criminal defense attorney than Joni Eisenstein. Attorney Eisenstein is dedicated to helping her clients and understands the severity of a conviction for minors and how challenging that can be to overcome for a young person. Reach out for a free consultation if you want to help a minor get their life back on track!

If you are on the fence about hiring a defense attorney, stop thinking about it, and do it now

Hiring a criminal defense attorney like Joni Eisenstein can help you go from a place of uncertainty to freedom.