In California, the legal drinking age is 21. If a person sells or furnishes alcohol to anyone under that age, they could be charged with a misdemeanor. The law also applies to underage individuals who purchase or attempt to purchase alcoholic beverages.
Giving Alcohol to Underage Drinkers
California Business and Professions Code 25658 is the law concerned with furnishing alcohol to persons under 21 years of age. This includes selling or giving such a beverage in any way to a person below the legal drinking age.
Additionally, if a person licensed to sell alcohol in their establishment allows someone under 21 years of age to drink alcohol on their property, they could be violating the law. This applies regardless of whether or not they knew the individual was under the legal drinking age.
But what if the underage drinker has money to buy the alcohol? Let’s say someone under 21 years of age asks another person to buy them alcohol with cash they provide. If the person actually follows through with the purchase, that is also illegal.
If a person violates this section of the law, they could be charged with a misdemeanor and be subject to the following:
- A fine of up to $1,000, and/or
- 24 hours of community service
In certain circumstances, the penalties for giving alcohol to an underage drinker increase. For instance, say Max, who is over 21 years of age, was throwing a party at his house. He invited Teresa, who is 18 years of age. While at the party, Teresa had a few shots, some cocktails, and several beers. She got severely intoxicated and was later found dead in the bathroom.
In this scenario, Max could still be charged with a misdemeanor. In addition to facing a fine, which increases to $1,000 for this offense, he could also be sentenced to 6 months in jail.
Underage Drinkers Purchasing Their Own Alcohol
The law does not only prohibit people from giving alcohol to underage drinkers, it also forbids people under 21 years of age from buying alcohol for themselves or consuming it at a place that sells alcoholic beverages.
This is also a misdemeanor charge. It carries with it a fine of up to $250 and/or community service for 24 to 32 hours. On a second or subsequent conviction, the fine increases to up to $500 and community service increases to up to 36 to 48 hours.
The only time a person under 21 years of age would be legally allowed to purchase alcohol is if it is part of a law enforcement operation to catch licensees or their employees furnishing alcohol to underage drinkers.
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