Written by attorney Douglas Brooks Rohan

Parent's lack of common sense can have serious consequences.

What qualifies as a "minor in possession" and what is the punishment for it?

Under Georgia law, any person under 21 years of age who purchases or consumes alcohol shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. If a cop stops her while walking home, and smells alcohol on her person, even though the bottles and cans are in the trash, she can be found guilty of possession. If she purchased the alcohol, she will lose her license for six months, and be subject to up to six months in custody and a $300 fine. The second conviction results in a one year suspension. If you are over 21 and purchased the alcohol for a minor, you are guilty of a high and aggravated misdemeanor, meaning the court can impose an even higher sentence than the 12 months in jail and $1,000 fine typical of a misdemeanor charge.

Can a parent serve alcohol to his or her child?

Pursuant to OCGA 3-3-23(c), there is an exception carved out in the home when the parent or guardian provides the alcohol to their own children under supervision, but this can be a slippery slope. What was an innocent gesture on a special occasion may develop into a path with serious consequences. Recent studies have shown that even moderate drinking can have a profound impact on an adolescent’s brain. 1 There is no reason to try to buy your child’s friendship with gestures like this. Be the parent. You are the only ones that qualify for that job. She has plenty of friends, but no one else can fill your role.

What happens if my child wants to have friends over and they stay in the house?

If you chose to step through this door, all bets are off. When you provide alcohol to minors in your home, not only will the legal defense be eliminated, but you are running the risk of being sued civilly if something goes wrong. In a well publicized case two years ago, Powder Springs mom Kecia Whitfield bought a bottle of rum for her son to drink at home. She claimed at her trial she was unaware that he would share it with friends. Her son’s 16 year-old friend was killed in a car wreck on his way home. His blood alcohol was 0.13. The legal limit for an adult over 21 is 0.08. Under 21 is 0.02. Whitfield was sentenced to 18 months in jail and another 30 months of probation. 2

The next wave of litigation will be looking at whether parents can be held liable as the owner of a vehicle if the children are driving while impaired. This could expose you to millions of dollars in liability.

The conclusion here is that parents need to be parents. A sip of wine on Thanksgiving Day may be socially acceptable, but you will be hard pressed to find a sympathetic jury if you provide your child with a fifth of Jack Daniels or a six pack of beer. It is better to avoid this situation all together.



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