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Under 21, possess Liquor

Amherst, MA |

Got in a college area bus station with a small bottle of liquor in hand, not using it at all, they looked at his ID and then was told that he will have a hearing in the court, the notice is for the next month. This is his first time. What is involved during hearing and what is the consequences for his record , what is the best approach.

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Attorney answers 3

Best Answer

If the person you are talking about was, in fact, a college student,then the case will be handled in adult court.

If his notice is for a clerk-magistrate hearing, he has an opportunity to avoid a criminal complaint being issued, and therefore keep from creating a criminal record, if he has never been charged with a crime before. In that case, an attorney can help prepare and having an attorney can demonstrate the young person's understanding that they take this seriously. There is no guarantee that the attorney will be successful, but his chances are better with someone who understands and practices in that area regularly.
If the notice is for an arraignment, then my suggestion is different. The maximum penalty for a first offense of this nature, if a criminal complaint issues, will be a $50 fine for a guilty finding, plus a loss of license for 90 days. While that may be the least expensive route, the court there cooperates with UMass Amherst with a diversion program that kids can participate in--it involves a $100 fine and taking a class on the risks of drinking alcohol. This is something that also has consequences if the terms of the person fails to comply with the terms of the diversion program. For that reason, I recommend an attorney be involved.

In either case, the person's criminal record needs to be protected for purposes of educationL and career opportunities.

Providing users with information is not intended to create an attorney/client relationship. However, if in reading my response, you are interested in retaining me to represent you, please do not hesitate to contact me.


The most likely event at court is that it will be a clerk-magistrate's hearing on whether there is probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime of being a minor (under 21) in possession of alcohol. If the clerk believes that the elements of the crime (i.e., that the substance was an alcoholic beverage, that he was in possession of it and that he was under 21 at the time) can be proven, the clerk decides whether a criminal complaint should issue or whether there is some other disposition that would be more just under the circumstances.

If the clerk issues the complaint, the young man will be arraigned in court in front of a judge and the charge will go onto his Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI). The dispositional options open to the judge range from dismissal upon payment of court costs to a continuance without a finding to guilty with a fine. There are motor vehicle operator's license implications for a guilty finding.

The defendant would be well advised to retain a criminal defense attorney familiar with the Amherst District Court to help minimize the consequences and perhaps pursue Fourth Amendment defenses. Because there is no jail time associated with the charge, the defendant is not entitled to a court-appointed attorney.

I mentioned district court because, though you have listed the practice are a as Juvenile Law and though the young man is a "minor" under the alcoholic beverages law, the jurisdiction of juvenile court ends upon a minor turning 17. I will change the practice are after I post my answer.

Use the Find a Lawyer button here on to look for a criminal defense attorney near the college for the defendant in advance of next month's hearing.

NOTE: This answer is made available by the lawyer for educational purposes only. By using or participating in this site you understand that there is no attorney client privilege between you and the attorney responding. This site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your area who regularly practices in the subject matter which your question is about. You should develop an attorney client relationship with the lawyer of your choice so that your communications will be subject to the attorney client privilege and have the other benefits of a professional relationship. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The information and materials provided are general in nature, and may not apply to a specific matter as partially described in the question.


He is going to have to attend a clerks magistrate hearing. He should obtain an attorney, even thou the charge is only a small fine it is still a criminal offense and a conviction will result in a 90 day license suspension.

David Newton

This is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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