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Understanding the Consequences of Enabling Underage Drinking in Florida


This time of year, holiday parties are in full swing and many people are getting into a festive mood. It is not unusual for people to indulge themselves in alcoholic spirits while getting into the holiday spirit and there is nothing wrong with doing so responsibly once reaching the legal drinking age. However, this time of year can also be an especially tempting time to allow an underage family member or friend to indulge as well. While your first thought may be to enable this behavior because “it’s safer for them to do it here”, your next thought should concern your own potential legal responsibility.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in the United States despite the fact that the legal drinking age is 21. All of that alcohol is being provided by people who can be held criminally liable for doing so, even if they aren’t aware this behavior is illegal. The reality is, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to even hold alcohol in the state of Florida. And if you know about and facilitate underage drinking in your house, you can be held criminally liable – even if the underage person you’re allowing to drink is your own child.

What is the Law Concerning People Who Enable Underage Drinking in Florida?

Under Sect. 562.11(1)(a) of the Florida Statute, you can be held criminally liable for selling, serving, giving, or allowing a person under the age of 21 to have alcohol. A violation of this statute is a second degree misdemeanor that carries the potential for a jail sentence of up to 60 days as well as a $500 fine. Because this statute applies to “anyone”, everyone – from servers who knowingly serve alcohol to an underage friend to a fraternity member who puts out a keg at a party to parents who allow their children to have wine with dinner – can be held liable.

Are There Other Potential Consequences For an Enabler?

Yes. If a teen consumes alcohol at your home and you subsequently allow him to drive a car in which he then injures himself or a third party, you can incur other consequences. You can face additional criminal liability, as well as civil liability for any damages or harm caused by the underage driver. Further, you can face untold social implications.

Is it Only the Enabler That Faces Criminal Charges?

No. The underage drinker can also be held criminally liable for drinking and driving after ingesting any amount of alcohol. This can carries the potential for fines, jail time (depending on aggravating circumstances) and – likely the worst consequence for a young driver – the loss of a driving license.

Are You or Someone You Love Facing Alcohol Charges?

If you are facing charges for providing alcohol to an underage person, it is critical that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. As a former prosecutor with extensive criminal experience on both sides of the legal system, Donald C. Barrett, P.A. is the Tampa criminal defense attorney you want on your side. Schedule a consultation today.


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