Written by attorney Carly Anne Jehlen

A Brief Guide to Underage Possession of Alcohol in Northern Virginia

Virginia Code Section 4.1-305 Underage Possession of Alcohol

No person to whom an alcoholic beverage may not lawfully be sold shall consume, purchase or possess, or attempt to consume, purchase or possess, any alcoholic beverage.

In Virginia, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to possess, consume, or purchase alcohol pursuant to Virginia Code Section 4.1-305. A person believed to have violated the section may be prosecuted either in the county or city in which the alcohol was possessed or consumed, or in the county or city in which the person exhibits evidence of physical indicia of consumption of alcohol. It is a Class 1 Misdemeanor in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. If you are found guilty and convicted of underage possession of alcohol, there is a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or 50 hours of community serrvice as a condition of probation supervision. If you are age 18 or older, your license will be suspended for at least six months but not more than a year. During the period of license suspension, the court may require you to be monitored by an alcohol safety action program, or supervised by a local community-based probation services agency. There is a provision for a restricted license to be able to drive to work, school, and other restricted and limited places.

First Offender Status

If you have not been convicted of underage consumption, purchase, or possession of alcohol in Virginia or any other state, the judge may, at his or her discretion, place you on first offender status. If placed on first offender status, you will be required to enter a treatment or education program or both, if available, that in the opinion of the court best suits the needs of the accused. Your license may be suspended.

If you violate one of the conditions, the court may find you guilty and proceed as otherwise provided. However, upon fulfillment of the conditions (i.e. community service, court costs and fines, treatment program, etc.), the court will dismiss the proceedings without an adjudication of guilty. However a discharge and dismissal is treated as a conviction for the purpose of applying this section in any subsequent proceedings, it is not avaiolable for expungement status, and if you received another similar charge, you are not entitled to receive first offender status.

Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

The Commonwealth must prove your age, and consumption of alcohol. Any statements you made about your age and your drinking can be used against you to prove consumption of alcohol. Additionally, police officers may ask you to blow into a preliminary breath test when you encounter them. You have the right to refuse to answer any questions, and you have the right to ask the officer if any tests he or she is asking you to perform are voluntary.

Local Law

There are a number of defenses that can be raised and a number of tactics to be used to help your case before going to court. It is important to consult with a local attorney familiar with the jurisdiction you are being charged in because they will be familair with the procedures of police officers in the area, the presentation and questioning of the state's evidence, and the probationary programs and alternatives to conviction.

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