In all states, you must be at least 21 years old to drink alcohol. The way that many young people get caught disobeying this law is when they are drunk in public. This sort of offense is not like driving under the influence (DUI) but it's still a serious matter. Read to find out more about under-aged drinking charges.
Understand This Is Not Like a DUI
When it comes to DUI arrests, you must both be the driver of a vehicle and fail one or more roadside sobriety tests. The legal limit is .08 blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and that number comes about using a breathalyzer either on the scene or later at the station. Another related issue is public intoxication. This charge is lesser than a DUI and with fewer consequences but you can still go to jail in some cases for being drunk in public.
Interestingly enough, you may not have to actually be intoxicated in some states to be charged with it. If you appear to be drunk, you may be charged with public intoxication. Both of those are slightly different than under-aged drinking.
The BAC Number May Be Irrelevant
One issue that sets under-aged drinking arrests apart is that they don't rely on the measurement of the BAC to determine anything. That said, however, a breathalyzer is used to determine the presence of alcohol in the suspect's system. Any reading, no matter how small, may be grounds for an arrest since no one under the age of 21 may be drinking. Another issue that sets under-aged drinking apart is that an arrest can occur anywhere under any circumstances. You can be exiting a nightclub, picnicking in a park, or a passenger in a car. If law enforcement has reasonable cause to suspect an under-aged person is drinking, they can detain you and test your breath.
What to Expect With An Arrest
Under-aged drinking is a misdemeanor but the sentencing varies depending on the location and the circumstances. If additional factors are present, the charges could be elevated to a felony charge. Some of those include multiple arrests for the same thing, other connected crimes, high BAC results, etc.
If you or a loved one has been arrested and charged with under-aged drinking, you will need legal assistance. Speak to a criminal law attorney about preserving a previously spotless record by having the charges dropped instead of community service, a financial payment, or other ways of withholding adjudication. Having a defense attorney could make all the difference for the outcome of your case.