San Diego is doing what it can to crack down on underage drinking in the state. Police in San Diego recently wrapped up operation “Minor Decoy,” which was intended to identify locations where minors could get their hands on alcohol illegally. During the operation, minors under the direct supervision of local police would enter establishments across San Diego and attempt to purchase alcohol. Police were able to arrest two men for selling alcohol to minors.
It’s Illegal to Facilitate Underage Drinking
The drinking age in California is 21 years old. Under state law, it’s illegal for anyone under that age to purchase or consume alcohol. It’s also a crime to help a person under the age of 21 to obtain alcohol. Specifically, California Business & Professions Code 25658(a) BPC makes it illegal to “sell, furnish, give, or cause to be sold, furnished, or given away any alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age.” So, it’s not only a crime to sell alcohol to a minor, but to provide alcohol to a minor in any way.
What Does the State Have to Prove?
When you’re accused of a crime the state still has the burden of proving that you are guilty. In order to do this, prosecutors must provide evidence to show that:
- You sold, gave, or furnished alcohol to a specific person, and
- That person was under the age of 21 at that time.
It will be important for prosecutors to have evidence that you’ve sold or otherwise provided alcohol to a specific person under the age of 21. The absence of this evidence could prevent them from satisfying their burden of proof.
What If I Honestly Believed the Person Was 21?
There are certain times when you may not be charged with a crime even if you do, in fact, sell or give alcohol to a minor. State law is intended to stop individuals from intentionally and knowingly providing alcohol to minors. If you can prove that you took certain steps to establish that a person was, in fact, at least 21 years old, you may be able to avoid criminal charges.
You may be able to establish that you reasonably believed a person was at least 21 if you requested government-issued ID as proof of age and relied on that ID. If this happened, you could assert a strong mistake of fact defense. The state isn’t looking to punish you if you reasonably believed that the person attempting to purchase alcohol was of legal drinking age.
Penalties For Selling or Providing Alcohol to a Minor
The consequences of selling alcohol to a person under the age of 21 can be harsh. Criminal penalties for this misdemeanor include a fine of $1,000 and at least 24 hours of community service. Bars and restaurants may also face additional fines and sanctions from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).
Dram Shop Liability
Bars & Bartenders: Bartenders and bar owners typically aren’t responsible for drunk driving accidents that are caused by their customers. However, bars may be responsible for harm caused by underage customers they’ve served. Victims of drunk driving accidents can seek financial compensation from a bar if they provided alcohol to the underage driver.
Parents and Social Hosts: It’s important to note that parents or social hosts may also be personally responsible for harm caused by underage drinkers they’ve served in their own home.
Defending Yourself If You’re Accused of Selling Alcohol to a Minor
A strong defense can help you secure the best outcome in your San Diego criminal case. Possible defense arguments in a case involving the sale of alcohol to a minor can include:
- You reasonably believed the customer was over the age of 21
- The person was actually over the age of 21
- You did not sell or furnish alcohol to that person, and
- Evidence in your case was obtained in violation of your rights.
Remember, the state has to prove that you’re guilty of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. You can make a prosecutor’s job much more difficult by defending yourself. If you need help with your defense it’s smart to contact an experienced attorney. Your lawyer will fight to protect your rights and make sure that you have every opportunity to defend yourself.
Have you been arrested for an alcohol or drug-related crime in San Diego? Contact our criminal defense lawyers for immediate legal assistance. We’re here to help you fight to protect your future. Call today to learn more.