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How serious is getting cited for underage drinking? My son was a passenger in a car. He admitted to drinking. We live in TN.

Knoxville, TN |

There was no alcohol present. But he admitted to drinking. Does he need a lawyer when he goes to court? How long will this remain on his record? If so, how does he go about to get it removed? What fees are involved? He will be 21 in 2 months. What sort of penalities are we looking at; fees? lawyer fees? What will his punishment be? Typically?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. While an attorney is not absolutely necessary, it would certainly help greatly. Your son may have a defensible case if the only evidence against him is an admission. It is not illegal to THINK you are drinking underage, and how could the State prove beyond a reasonable doubt that what your son was drinking was ACTUALLY alcohol and not non-alcoholic beer or something similar?

    Alternatively, the State may offer the diversion program which may give your son an opportunity to have the case against him dismissed and the arrest expunged off of his record. Some courts do not offer this unless someone is represented by counsel.


  2. The issue you have is that the citation will likely show up on a FBI search unless it is expunged. That means if anyone is doing a background check on your son for anything requiring a license, it will show up. Forever.

    Get a lawyer in Knox County to deal with this so it doesn't follow your son for the rest of his life.

    The foregoing is not legal advice nor is it in any manner whatsoever meant to create or impute an attorney/client relationship.


  3. The law is below for you to read; however, I would encourage you to speak with an attorney you trust in your area. As has been noted the case may be defended and there are other alternatives to trial or plea such as diversion, retirement, or dismissal. Many times beginning treatment (have an evaluation or assessment done at a treatment facility and following recommendations) and having the ability to pay court costs can lead to a satisfying outcome. Having an attorney does help your position, period.

    As a class a misdemeanor it may be punished as follows:
    Sentence can be not greater than eleven (11) months twenty-nine (29) days in jail or a fine not to exceed two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or both, unless otherwise provided by statute.

    Every DA and county has its/his/her own quirks. Likely, a person in your son's position in Tennessee is looking at 48 hours and/or or some term of probation and maybe a fine between $50 and $250. The court costs will likely be around $150. If probation is involved then the fee there will be around $550 (diversion will be around $100). If your son asks for and qualifies for a court appointed attorney the judge will levy a fee based on his ability to pay and relative to what attorneys in the area charge (+/-$250-1000); this fee will be ordered to be repaid within a period during probation.

    To get the charge removed your son will need to petition the court to expunge the record. For this charge to law allows that this happen after 6 months and without filing fee. You never have to have an attorney to have access to the court but many people find it helpful. Make your own decision after discussing the matter with a competent attorney.

    I know a gentleman in the area, Patrick Noel (Justice Noel & Burks: 1816 W Clinch Ave, Knoxville, TN 37916-2410 · Phone 1 865.522.4964 Web: http://justicenoelburks.com/Firm%20Info/Lawyers/42764693.aspx) maybe he can lead you in the right direction.

    Good luck.
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    Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-3-412
    (3) (A) It is unlawful for any person under the age of twenty-one (21) years to have in such person's possession or to consume any intoxicating liquor or beer for any purpose, whether the same be possessed or consumed in a dry county or a wet county. It is unlawful for any person under twenty-one (21) years of age to transport any intoxicating liquor or beer for any purpose, whether the same be transported in a dry or wet county; provided, that this section shall not be construed as prohibiting any person eighteen (18) years of age or older from transporting, possessing, selling or dispensing intoxicating liquor or beer in the course of such person's employment. For purposes of this subdivision (a)(3), "beer" shall have the same meaning as provided in § 57-6-102.

    (B) A violation of subdivision (a)(3)(A) is a Class A misdemeanor.

    (C) Any person under twenty-one (21) years of age found to have violated the provisions of this subdivision (a)(3) shall, regardless of the final disposition of such violation, have the right to have the records, as defined in § 40-32-101, of such violation destroyed after the passage of six (6) months from the date of the violation. Such destruction shall occur upon motion of the person to the court which heard the violation and shall be without cost to such person. No violation of the provisions of this subdivision (a)(3) may at any time be used against the violator in any criminal proceeding.

    Legal Disclaimer. This communication is not intended to create, and does not create, an attorney-client relationship between you and James Ronald Tucker, Jr. Thus, your receipt or transmission of information to or from the James Ronald Tucker, Jr. alone does not create an attorney-client relationship or ensure confidentiality. James Ronald Tucker, Jr. assumes no liability for the use or interpretation of information contained herein. The legal information herein provided is for general informational purposes only. It is not intended as professional counsel and should not be used as such. You should contact a competent attorney in your area to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem.

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