HOW TO FIGHT A CHARGE OF BEING A MINOR IN POSSESSION OF ALCOHOL IN MASSACHUSETTS

If one is under the age of 21 and, unaccompanied by an adult, is found knowingly possessing, carrying or transporting an alcoholic beverage, they can be charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol.  The punishment is a fine of $50 for the first offense and $150 for a second offense or any subsequent offense.

While it may not be considered the most serious of crimes and it does not carry the possibility of incarceration, it is nevertheless a criminal offense that can result in a conviction and criminal record. If convicted, it will be reported to the Registry of Motor Vehicles and the offender will lose his or her driver’s license for 90 days.

But that may not be the worst of it. It shouldn’t be taken too lightly because any criminal record may have serious consequences. It could hamper someone when they apply for college as the college may become aware of a criminal record and question the applicant about it. Then, even though it is a relatively low level of crime, it might be the thing that causes the school to reject the applicant with a criminal record in favor of someone without any criminal record. Or deny the awarding of college scholarship money.  It could also hurt someone when they apply for a job or a professional license or even to do volunteer work.

If the police catch a minor in possession of alcohol, they do have an option on how to go about charging you. They could arrest you on the spot.  Or you can be summoned into court by way of a letter.

If one is at least 18 but below the age of 21, they will be charged as an adult and given an adult criminal record instead of a juvenile record. It is an odd quirk of the law that one can be considered a minor too young to possess alcohol if they are under the age of 21 and yet, on one’s 18 th birthday, any time one gets into trouble with the law, one will be prosecuted, not in juvenile court but rather in the regular court along with all the adults.

However, if charged, if handled correctly, there is plenty of hope here in resolving this matter so that it does not affect the future of the offender. The goal of the attorney would be to try to get you out of this without a criminal record. There are a variety of ways this can be done.  

You could enter a diversion program where, instead of being prosecuted to the full extent, you can do community service or take a course on the dangers of alcohol. Upon the successful completion, the charge can be dropped.

Or your attorney can just negotiate an agreement where the case can be immediately dismissed.

Or through either pretrial probation or a continuance without a finding, the case can be dismissed after a period of time goes by as long as there are no new criminal charges that come up during that period.

Another effective method may be to request what is known as a clerk’s hearing. One way to request a clerk’s hearing, also known as a show cause hearing, is if you are handed or mailed a citation.  Consult a defense attorney right away. The citation might notify you in very fine print that you have just four days to file a request for a clerk’s hearing at the local courthouse. At that relatively informal hearing a decision can be made whether to charge you at all. If you can nip it in the bud at the clerk’s hearing by getting a ruling that a complaint will not issue, then there will be no record in existence that you were ever even charged.

Getting out of this without a criminal record is not at all unrealistic if the minor has no prior criminal record and is leading an otherwise good life. They may be given the benefit of the doubt and given a break on this – their very first encounter with the criminal justice system.

One always has the option to fight the case all the way and go to trial. There are a variety of defenses that can be used to win a verdict of not guilty o not delinquent. For example, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused young person was “knowingly” in possession of the alcohol. Simply being nearby its presence would not be enough. This means that, for example, if the accused is at a party and someone else has alcohol, the prosecution must prove that it was knowingly possessed by the accused. It has, indeed, happened that the police will arrest every single person attending a party where there is alcohol regardless of whether the accused person was drinking alcohol or in possession of it. Or if you are in a car with a bunch of other people and one of these other people has alcohol, a good criminal defense attorney will argue that you cannot be fairly convicted if that alcoholic beverage is not yours. Nor should being in a public park near where others are drinking nearby be enough to get one convicted. Tailgating parties at, let’s say, Gillette Stadium before a sports event or concert, are notorious for garnering the event-goers a charge of being a minor in possession of alcohol.

There is an exception to this law and that is when a person between the ages of 18 and 21 who possesses, carries or transports alcoholic beverages in the course of their employment. For example, if an 18-year old has a job at a restaurant where alcohol is served they might be allowed to lift or carry it.

Are you or is your child charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol? Contact our Boston criminal defense law firm today for a free legal consult at (617) 742-9462.

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