Utah Juvenile Sentencing Guidelines for Underage Drinking and Alcohol Misdemeanors

We previously wrote about Utah criminal sentencing guidelines with a focus on convicted adult defendants.  In this article, we’ll be shifting our focus to review how juveniles are sentenced for criminal offenses involving alcohol in Utah.

How Judges Use Sentencing Guidelines for Minors

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Before we can talk about Utah’s juvenile sentencing guidelines, we need to back up and explain some general information about juvenile court.

When an adult is criminally charged, his or her case will be heard in the appropriate justice court (for Class B and Class C misdemeanors) or district court (for Class A misdemeanors and all types of felonies).  You can find more information about these types of courts in our article on where to go to criminal court in Salt Lake County.

An adult defendant who pleads or is found guilty will be convicted and sentenced to criminal penalties, which might include incarceration in jail or prison depending on factors like the nature of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history.

When a juvenile is charged with a crime, he or she will typically go to a juvenile court.  (There are a few exceptions involving serious crimes, which you can read more about in our article on what happens when a juvenile is charged with a felony.)  Unlike adult courts, juvenile courts are civil, not criminal.  If a juvenile is found guilty, he or she will be “adjudicated delinquent” instead of being convicted, unless the case is tried in adult court.  Use our reference guide to find a juvenile court in Salt Lake County.

Juveniles who are adjudicated delinquent cannot be sent to prison to serve time among convicted adults, but in scenarios involving serious crimes, may be sentenced to time in a secure facility among other juveniles.  For non-violent offenses involving alcohol, such as lying about being 21 in order to buy alcohol or sneak into a bar, penalties like fines, community service, and driver education are more appropriate.  Judges refer to pre-existing sentencing guidelines when determining how a juvenile should be sentenced, taking into consideration factors like the juvenile’s home life and criminal history, if any.

Utah Penalties for Public Intoxication, Using Fake ID, and Other Misdemeanors

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Utah’s juvenile sentencing guidelines actually contain, for most offenses, two sets of instructions: penalties the judge may order, and penalties the judge shall order.  Below are the sentencing guidelines for various misdemeanor juvenile offenses involving alcohol.

  • Alcohol Restricted Drivers (ARD)  
    • Shall — Order the driver to temporarily install an ignition interlock device (IID) as part of probation, during which the offender must comply with rules, avoid additional charges, and report to a probation officer.  An IID must be installed in every vehicle the offender owns.
  • Impaired Driving 
    • Shall — Order the juvenile to participate in screening for substance abuse, and, depending on the results of the screening, an assessment and education course (or treatment).
    • May — Order participation in treatment for drug and/or alcohol abuse.
    • Note that impaired driving is a separate offense from intoxicated driving, which is reviewed in our article on juvenile sentencing for underage DUI in Utah.
  • Minor Misrepresenting Age to Purchase Alcohol  
    • Shall — Suspend the juvenile’s driver’s license.
    • May — Order a screening, potentially to be followed by assessment and education or treatment.  The court may also order anywhere from 20 to 100 hours of community service.  The length of the license suspension can be shortened if the juvenile either (1) successfully completes education or (2) shows “substantial progress” in their treatment.
  • Minor Possessing or Consuming Alcohol — See “minor misrepresenting age to purchase alcohol” above.
  • Minor Purchasing Alcohol — See “minor misrepresenting age to purchase alcohol.”
  • Minor’s Unlawful Use of Proof of Age  
    • Shall — Suspend the juvenile’s driver’s license.
    • May — Shorten the period of license suspension if the juvenile is able to complete the education course, or shows “substantial progress” in their treatment.
  • Public Intoxication — See “minor misrepresenting age to purchase alcohol.”
  • Unlawful Admittance to Bar or Club by Minor, Attempts to Gain Entrance — The sentencing guidelines are the same as those for minors misrepresenting their age to purchase alcohol, except there is no instruction to consider ordering community service.

Parents should keep in mind that these sentencing guidelines reflect only first offenses.  The penalties for repeat offenses can be much more severe.

Daughter or Son Arrested for Underage Drinking? Call Our Salt Lake City Juvenile Defense Lawyers

A history of underage drinking, using fake ID, or other alcohol crimes can have intensely negative consequences for your son or daughter.  A record of juvenile delinquency can hinder your child’s educational career, scholarship opportunities, and other important opportunities.  You need to make sure your teenage son or daughter’s best interests are being vigilantly protected by a knowledgeable and experienced underage drinking lawyer in Utah.  With skillful legal representation, it may be possible to obtain a more lenient sentence, or even to have the charges dismissed.

To set up a free legal consultation, call Salt Lake City juvenile crimes attorney Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287.  Darwin handles cases throughout Utah, and will keep your family’s information confidential.