How Serious is the Crime of Selling Alcohol to Minors?
It is no news to anyone many minors, those under the age of 21, want to drink alcohol and that minors that want alcohol will go to nearly any extent to obtain alcohol. In an effort to obtain alcohol, minors will often bribe staff at gas stations and liquor stores to obtain alcohol. Minors will use a fake ID or the ID of someone over the age of 21 to obtain alcohol. Additionally, minors will pay an individual over the age of 21 to purchase alcohol for them. All of these actions are illegal and can result in criminal prosecution. When law enforcement identifies a party that sells alcohol to a minor or a minor in possession of alcohol in Oklahoma, criminal investigation and criminal charges often follow.
Alcohol Offenses involving Minors in Oklahoma
There are many interests at play that result in serious criminal consequences for offenses involving alcohol and minors. One of the most important public interests that result in serious criminal prosecution for providing minor’s alcohol includes protecting minors from the risks associated with alcohol before they are “old enough” to make better choices with alcohol. Whether you agree with the legal drinking age of 21 in Oklahoma or not, these laws are enforced equally and harshly against adults that are charged with selling alcohol to minors in Oklahoma or providing alcohol to minors.
Possession of Alcohol by a Minor
Oklahoma state statutes prohibit possession or consuming low-point beer or alcohol by anyone under the age of 21; however, an exception exists for minors consuming alcohol with a parent, which should be limited in scope by our statutes. Additionally, Oklahoma Statutes Title 37 Section 246 makes it a misdemeanor offense for someone under the age of 21 to use a fake ID or falsify their age in order to obtain alcohol, which is punishable by a fine and community service. Further, it is illegal for a minor to enter into an establishment, which is primarily a bar selling alcohol or a liquor store. When a minor enters an establishment where the sale of alcohol is the business’ primary purpose, both the minor and employees of the establishment can face criminal prosecution.
Selling Alcohol to a Minor
When a business sells alcohol to a minor it could lose its liquor license and/or permit to sell beer. Additionally, an individual identified as selling alcohol to a minor can be prosecuted on the first offense for a misdemeanor, which is punishable with up to a year in county jail and a conviction for the offense. Further, Oklahoma social host laws allow any person that permits a minor to drink on their property to be punished.
Public intoxication is another alcohol related offense that can result in prosecution. A minor that is believed to be intoxicated in public can be prosecuted for the offense of public intoxication. When a person is intoxicated to the point of posing a threat to themselves or others, they may be arrested for public intoxication and can be prosecuted in municipal or state court. Specifically, Oklahoma Statutes Title 37 Section Eight (8) make it illegal to consume alcohol in public, to be drunk in public, or to be intoxicated to the point that a person disturbs the peace. The offense of public intoxication is punishable by up to 30 days in jail in Oklahoma.
Transporting an Open Container
Transporting an open container of alcohol is another offense that a minor may be prosecuted for in Oklahoma. It is illegal to leave the premises of an established that serves alcohol with an open container of Oklahoma, pursuant to Oklahoma Statutes Title 37 Section 537. It is a misdemeanor offense that may result in jail time for an adult or a minor to be in possession of an open container of alcohol.
When minors transport an open container of alcohol in a vehicle it is a separate criminal offense. Transporting an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle is a misdemeanor offense, whether you are a minor or an adult and carries potential jail time. In order to lawfully transport an open container of alcohol, it must be located in an area inaccessible to the passenger cab, i.e. the trunk. Transporting an open container of alcohol is a misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to six months in jail.
DUI and APC
The most well-known alcohol related offense is driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”) or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated (“APC”). Both of these offenses require a person be intoxicated and either be driving a motor vehicle intoxicated, DUI, or be in control of a vehicle while intoxicated, APC. Minors, as well as adults, may be prosecuted for DUI or APC in Oklahoma. The punishment for DUI and APC in Oklahoma is up to one year in jail, as well as substantial fines and statutory probation requirements.
What Happens if You are Caught Selling Alcohol to a Minor?
Selling alcohol to a minor can carry serious penalties in Oklahoma. At Cannon & Associates, we know how scary it can be to face criminal prosecution, including charges related to providing or selling alcohol to a minor. The Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission (“ABLE”) and local law enforcement agencies, frequently runs stings at restaurants to stop the sale of alcohol to individuals under the age of 21. If you are working at a restaurant that is the target of an ABLE sting, you may be charged with the crime of selling alcohol to a minor following a sting or investigation by ABLE or local law enforcement.
In Oklahoma, selling alcohol to a person under 21 does not require the prosecution prove you knew the individual was under the age of 21; however, the prosecution must prove that you did in fact sell alcohol to a minor. The first offense for selling alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor. However, a second or subsequent offense for selling alcohol to a minor is a felony offense. Second or subsequent offenses of selling alcohol to a minor carries up to five years in prison.
When you are accused or charged with selling alcohol to a minor following an ABLE sting or contact with law enforcement, your offense will be given to the District Attorney’s Office in your County. The District Attorney’s Office will evaluate the allegations by law enforcement and determine whether or not they want to file criminal charged against you for selling alcohol to a minor.
You have several options that an experienced criminal defense attorney can assist you with, if you have been charged with the crime of selling alcohol to a minor or distributing alcohol to a minor. First, you may fight the charges by requiring the government present evidence in court to support the allegations against you, either in a trial or motion hearing. Second, you may work with an Oklahoma criminal defense attorney to identify mitigation and extenuation in your case to warrant a lesser charge or an outcome that avoids jail time or a substantial fine. However, whatever route you choose to take, working with an experienced criminal attorney gives you the best opportunity to resolve your matter with the best outcome possible.
In most cases of selling alcohol to a minor or distributing alcohol to a minor, the ABLE sting or law enforcement will enter the restaurant prior to the minors that purchase the alcohol. The minors will enter second and order the drinks. One easy way to avoid a citation for selling alcohol to a minor is to always ID your customers and make sure the photograph on the ID matches the face of the person purchasing alcohol. Even if you think they look well over the age of 21, the safest bet is to ID every customer who orders an alcoholic beverage that is under 40 years old.
When you are unsure, if the person ordering alcohol is in fact over the age of 21 or the person on the ID, you should feel confident that you may ask another employee to verify the party’s age. While asking a second individual to look at the ID of the minor attempting to purchase alcohol will not protect you from being charged with the offense of selling alcohol to a minor, it may give your criminal defense attorney sufficient information to seek dismissal of your charges by bringing your co-worker as a witness in your case.
There is no way as a restaurant employee or gas station employee to be 100 percent certain that you will never be charged with selling alcohol to a minor, without violating the rights of customers to purchase alcohol. However, by having a second set of eyes look at a questionable ID with you and being cautious, if the party looks like they are under the age of 21, you can greatly decrease the chances that you will be arrested or charged with selling alcohol to a minor.
We have represented many clients facing the confusing and stressful circumstance of the criminal charge of selling alcohol to a minor or distributing alcohol to minors. However, you should not fear, as these charges are more common than you would think and we can assist you in minimizing the negative consequences in your case.
Receiving a citation for selling alcohol to a minor is a scary situation that does not need to be faced alone. Help is certainly available. At Cannon & Associates, we are dedicated to Fierce Advocacy for every client. It might seem like your charge is too insignificant for an experienced criminal defense attorney; however, you should never face criminal charges alone. You can be sure that the police present the charges to prosecution attorneys that work for the state and they will be representing the government’s interest in your case. You should retain an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side, if you are facing an alcohol related offense, including selling alcohol to a minor. Our team is dedicated to fighting for you and making sure that we achieve the best outcome for you.
Your Fierce Advocatesä for Defense of Selling Alcohol to Minor Charges: Cannon & Associates
Being arrested and charged with an alcohol related offense, such as selling alcohol to a minor, distributing alcohol to a minor, public intoxication, transporting an open container of alcohol, or DUI threatens many important freedoms and privileges we enjoy. Cannon & Associates can help you understand and face this difficult process of criminal charges. We hope this explanation of the potential criminal charges related to alcohol and providing alcohol to minors has been helpful to you whether you decide to work with us or not.
Our team of Fierce Advocatesä are ready to hear your story and answer all your questions. Contact Cannon & Associates by completing the CONTACT FORM ON THIS PAGE NOW or CALL at 405-657-2323 for a free confidential case strategy session and to have your questions answered about the process ahead and defending a case of selling alcohol to a minor or any other alcohol related offense.