In Virginia, it’s illegal for any person under the age of 21 to consume, purchase, or possess alcohol. This is a serious crime that can result in fines, community service, and even jail time.
In this article, we’ll talk about the penalties for underage drinking in Virginia. We’ll also go over what can happen if you sell alcohol to a minor.
How Does Virginia Define Underage Drinking?
Virginia’s laws on underage drinking are a bit complicated. However, they generally boil down to a few basic points.
In Virginia, it is a Class 1 misdemeanor for any minor to:
- Purchase alcohol under any circumstances.
- Consume alcohol, except in a private residence with the permission of a parent or guardian.
- Possess alcohol, unless “making a delivery of alcoholic beverages by order of a parent.”
- Work as a bartender, unless at an establishment that sells only beer.
What about furnishing alcohol to a minor?
In legal terms, “furnishing alcohol to a minor” just means giving or selling alcohol to someone under the age of 21. In Virginia, this is a crime that also applies to clerks at stores that sell alcohol.
The penalties for giving alcohol to a minor can change depending on whether or not you were aware that the person is a minor:
- If you knew the person was a minor and provided them with alcohol anyway, it’s a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and up to 12 months in jail.
- Employees who neglect to check the ID of an underage person buying alcohol could be found guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500.
In regards to the second point, it’s important to note that being deceived by a fake ID is not a crime.
The law specifically protects employees who make a good-faith effort to check a purchaser’s ID before furnishing them with alcohol.
Additionally, businesses that furnish alcohol to minors may end up with penalties as well.
For a first offense, the State will give you a fine of up to $2,000. They might also revoke your liquor license.
What are the Penalties for Underage Drinking in Virginia?
As stated above, both underage drinking and furnishing alcohol to a minor are Class 1 misdemeanors in Virginia.
However, the maximum penalties for each charge are generally the same:
- A fine of between $500 and $2,500, or up to 50 hours of community service.
- Up to 12 months in jail.
- Suspension of your driver’s license for between 6 and 12 months.
- Mandatory referral to substance abuse counseling.
If your driver’s license is suspended in this way, you will have to pay a $145 replacement fee, in addition to any court costs.
Will I be eligible for restricted driving privileges?
If the court suspends your license, you may be eligible for restricted driving privileges.
The court may grant you restricted driving privileges at the time of your sentencing. If they do not, you will have to petition your local circuit court for privileges.
However, keep in mind that there is no guarantee that the court will grant you privileges.
If the court grants you privileges, you will be allowed to drive to specific places at specific times. The court will explain your conditions when it grants you privileges.
However, if you drive outside of those conditions, you may lose your restricted driving privileges permanently, and may face additional charges.
What Happens to Minors Who Drink and Drive in Virginia?
Virginia has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to underage motorists who drive while intoxicated.
In fact, in Virginia, a person under the age of 21 can be charged with DUI if they have a BAC as low as 0.02%.
DUI is also a Class 1 misdemeanor in Virginia, with similar penalties to underage drinking.
If you are stopped under suspicion of drinking and driving, a law enforcement office may ask you to perform field sobriety tests, including, but not limited to, a breathalyzer test.
Keep in mind that refusal to take a breathalyzer may lead to additional repercussions.
For example, the refusal of a roadside breathalyzer could cause the officer to arrest you, while refusing the more thorough breathalyzer test at the police station is a crime under Virginia’s implied consent law.
Finally, refusal to take a breathalyzer test can be used as evidence of your guilt in court.
Can I expunge an underage drinking charge?
For the most part, no.
However, if it is your first significant criminal offense and you are over the age of 18, you may be eligible for Virginia’s first offender deferment program.
Essentially, if a judge recommends you for this program you will be on probation for between six and twelve months.
During this time, you will have to submit to regular alcohol and drug testing and complete educational courses, community service, and whatever else the judge orders.
If you complete your program successfully, the court may dismiss your charges.
However, this is very different from expungement, and the charge itself may still show up as dismissed on background checks.
To qualify for an expungement you must have been found not guilty, or the prosecutor must have dropped the case against you.
For example, if you successfully participate in some kind of diversion program (as explained above) you may be able to get the arrest and charge expunged from your record.
Additionally, you must prove in court that having the charge on your record would impact your life in such a way that it would amount to what the law calls “manifest injustice.”
However, please remember that special rules may apply for individuals who are under 18, so you should always check with an attorney.
Similarly, remember that you cannot expunge a DUI conviction in Virginia.
Only the arrest and the fact that charges were brought against you can be expunged from your record, and only if these charges don’t lead to a conviction.
Virginia law treats underage drinking as a serious crime with serious consequences. The same is true for charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor.
A person convicted of either can suffer large fines, a lengthy period of mandatory community service, and even jail time.
If you are charged with either crime, don’t hesitate to contact a lawyer. An experienced Virginia lawyer can help you understand the nature of your situation, and enter the right plea for you.
Depending on the circumstances of your case, they may even be able to get your charges dropped. For this reason, it’s important to get in touch with an attorney as soon as you can following your arrest.