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Can I be charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor if I live with an under-21 roommate who possesses alcohol in our fridge?

Houston, TX |

I am living with three other individuals, and three of us are above age. We three that are legal to drink do not consume alcohol. However, the one underaged tenant does consume alcohol frequently and has his alcohol in our refrigerator. Can we be charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor because of this? If this is the case, do we have a legal right to dispose of the alcohol?

In Texas, furnishing alcohol to a minor is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to $4,000 in fines and up to 1 year in jail, or both (according to the Texas penal code).

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Attorney answers 2

Posted

Can you be charged? yes. People get charged with stuff all the time. The better question is whether or not you could be convicted, and I would think most likely not.

Under the Alcohol and Beverage Code 106.06, to furnish alcohol to a minor, you must purchase the alcohol, or give it to the minor, or negligently provide it to the minor. Under your fact scenario, you did not purchase, give, or provide any alcohol to a minor. This doesn't mean that if the cops showed up at your house for some reason, you wouldnt get arrested and charged with it, it just means that you probably would have a very good case for a defense to the charge.

Posted

To Mr. Tuthill's answer, I would only add that just because none of you bought or gave him the alcohol, it wouldn't preclude a prosecutor from arguing that the explanation that makes the most sense is that the three of you gave it to him. If it came to that point, I don't think a jury would convict any of you, but sure, it's possible. That all being said, the police would have to have probable cause to believe an offense was committed in order to get into the house on a warrant, in an emergency situation, or in pursuit of someone they suspected had committed a crime. Then they would ahve to ahve some sort of proof that it was his and and not yours. Without knowing more, it's hard for me to imagine a reason why they would do this unless there is other illegal activity going inside or immediately outside the house.

You do not have the right to destroy or dispose of the property of another without that person's consent. If his name is on the lease, then he's entitled to live in the house. He's not entitled to break any laws while in the house (and I imagine your lease has some sort of clause to that effect) and his possession of the alcohol constitutes an offense in Texas because he's underage. Maybe you could discuss your concerns with him and he could come up with some sort of compromise that makes everyone happy. Good luck.

Disclaimer: This answer is provided as a public service and as a general response to a general question, it is not meant, and should not be relied upon as specific legal advice, nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

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