Turning 21 in the United States is typically a rite of passage. Having your “first beer” with a parent or at a bar may be a cause for celebration. Many Americans still celebrate their 21st birthday even though approximately 20% of Americans under 21 report underage drinking – and drinkers under 21 consume 11% of all alcohol consumed in the US.
Despite this, drinking under the age of 21 is still illegal in Utah and most states. If you or your child was cited for underage drinking, there may be complex punishments. Especially if you are a juvenile (under 18), you could be placed in drug and alcohol abuse classes. If you are over 18, you could face drivers’ license suspensions and other penalties for underage drinking. Even possessing alcohol is illegal, whether you actually drink it or not. Especially if you drive after drinking underage, you could face strict consequences.
If you were charged with underage drinking, or your child was charged with underage drinking, talk to an attorney today. Underage drinking defense lawyer Darwin Overson of Overson Law may be able to help. Call (801) 758-2287 today for a free consultation on your citation.
Underage Drinking Laws in Utah
The underage drinking laws in Utah are quite long and include multiple penalties. The ultimate goal of these statutes is not to punish people for underage drinking, but rather to help them understand the risks and educate them against alcohol abuse and underage drinking. However, the statute still carries penalties for underage drinking.
First, the statute punishes not only drinking, but also possession of alcohol while you are under 21. The drinking age in Utah is 21, as it is in most states. Under § 32B-4-409, it is illegal for a minor to:
- Purchase alcohol,
- Attempt to purchase alcohol,
- Ask another to purchase alcohol for them,
- Possess alcohol,
- Drink alcohol, or
- Have alcohol in a measurable quantity in their blood, breath, or urine.
Despite this general statute, one of the subsections also reiterates that it is illegal for a minor to “possess or consume” alcohol in a limousine or charter bus.
The underage drinking statute also says that it is illegal for a minor to misrepresent their age (or for someone else to misrepresent a minor’s age) in order to purchase/obtain alcohol.
Additionally, note that subsection (f) makes it illegal to have any measurable amount of alcohol in your system. This exemplifies Utah’s “zero tolerance” policy for underage alcohol consumption. This means that any amount – even if your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is .01% or .02%, you could still face charges.
Exceptions to Underage Drinking Laws
Despite the general fact that people under 21 cannot have or drink alcohol, there are limited situations where this is permitted.
First, alcohol may be permitted for a minor if they need it for medical purposes. To qualify for this exception, the minor must be 18 years old. Additionally, the alcohol must be given to them by either their parent or by a healthcare provider authorized to write prescriptions.
Second, alcohol may be used as part of a religious ceremony. For instance, serving church wine to a minor or allowing a minor who is participating in a religious ceremony to carry wine is permitted and cannot lead to underage alcohol charges.
Unlike some other states, there is no exception for minors drinking under their parents’ supervision. Utah does not recognize this exception (except in the medical context), and parents and children could both face punishments if a parent serves their own minor child alcohol.
Penalties for Underage Alcohol Crimes in Utah
The first penalties associated with underage drinking deal with encouraging healthy attitudes toward alcohol and preventing abuse. For either a first or subsequent offense, a court may order someone who violates this statute to face alcohol screening, assessment, and education. These penalties occur in tiers, as needed. First, offenders are screened for alcohol abuse, then assessed as to whether education is appropriate or needed. If needed, offenders are sent to participate in an educational series on alcohol abuse.
If you are at least 18 years old, you could have your drivers’ license suspended for underage drinking. For a first offense, the license suspension lasts for one year. If the individual never had a drivers’ license or is otherwise ineligible for one, their ability to get a drivers’ license is postponed for one year. For a second offense, the period of suspension (or postponed eligibility) is increased to two years.
If you have had your license suspended, it may be difficult to get to work, church, or school activities. Luckily, Utah does offer “limited privileges” for drivers who do have license suspensions. While your freedom may be restricted, the State may still permit you to drive to school, work, or within other specified times or locations. However, these privileges are not automatic and you may need a lawyer to convince a judge to extend an exception for your hardship.
If you were caught driving under the influence while drinking underage, you can face additional punishments for driving under the influence (DUI). Utah’s underage DUI law is a “zero-tolerance” law that makes it illegal to drive with any alcohol in your system if you are under 21. This will lead to more serious charges and penalties than simple underage drinking. In this case, you risk additional license suspensions, criminal fines, and even jail time. Talk to an attorney if you were charged with an underage DUI in Salt Lake City.
Our Salt Lake City Underage Drinking Lawyers Can Help
If you or your child was charged with or cited for underage drinking, there could be fines, required educational programs, and drivers’ license suspensions in their future. Talk to an attorney today to see what options you or your child may have to avoid the penalties. Especially if you were charged with an underage DUI, you may need a lawyer to help you understand the charges and to defend against them. Call (801) 758-2287 today for your free consultation with Salt Lake City defense attorney Darwin Overson of Overson Law.