Unless an underaged drinker meets one of three specific exemptions – even on the first offense – they are liable to face hundreds of dollars in fines, and will likely receive a community service sentence linked to an alcohol awareness program appropriate to the crime committed. That fresh new driver’s license will also probably be revoked for a minimum of 30 days.
Second and third offenses quickly compound those fines and community service hours. Those are the MIP laws in a nutshell for underage offenders.
What about any adults who are involved, though? Often, minors who get their hands on alcoholic beverages have adult assistance somewhere along the way, and Texas law explicitly states that this is illegal.
Specifically, adults are prohibited from purchasing alcohol for, selling alcohol to, or otherwise furnishing alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age.
In today’s post, we want to focus on the exceptions to this rule, and possible defenses for each. There are three primary scenarios which are officially recognized by Texas law.
Once you’ve heard them, if you’ve found yourself arrested on MIP-related charges as an adult of legal age, but still have questions about those charges, a criminal defense attorney can always review your case and offer advice on best course of action.
I Thought the Minor Was Legal
If you are a store clerk, for instance, you may have been presented with a fake ID upon purchase that you reasonably believed was valid.
An adult may avoid liability for such a violation if he or she can prove they reasonably relied upon a minor’s false representation of that minor’s age.
The Minor in Possession Is My Child
As part of their role in protecting their child, many parents subscribe to the philosophy that if their child is going to drink underage, they would rather be supervising those activities rather than not.
Texas understands this, and has provisions in place for someone of legal consumption age to buy alcohol for, give, or make alcohol available to their own child or ward – as long as the adult is visibly present when the underage party is consuming the alcohol.
Note, that the law does not, however, allow you to provide alcohol to any other minors. If you host a party for your child’s friends, you are violating the law. The Texas Alcoholic Beverage code, in fact, states that an adult 21 or older is liable for any damages proximately caused by the intoxication of a minor under the age of 18 if they contributed to their intoxication in any way.
I Provided Alcohol to My Underaged Spouse
If a 21-year-old is married to someone younger than legal drinking age, they may assume responsibility for their spouse’s drinking as long as they are present.
As with any case, developing a defense in the event you were arrested on charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor will depend on your specific circumstances.
So, while it’s true that minors do face tough consequences for underage possession in Texas, it’s important to realize adults are subject to stiff penalties themselves. Unless you happen to fall under one of these specific circumstances, furnishing alcohol to a minor – even just once – is a misdemeanor offense that could land you in jail for up to a year and see you hit with a $4,000 maximum fine.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.