You are young. On summer break. Life is good. You might spend all day streaming Netflix on your phone while pretending to fold clothes at your summer job at the Gap. All while making plans for your night. Which may involve drinking alcohol. If you drink, and you are under the age of 21, then you risk getting charged with Underage Consumption.
In Minnesota, anyone who consumes alcohol under the age of 21 is violating its Underage Consumption law. Also popularly known as Minor Consumption. This violation is a misdemeanor offense carrying a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
For most first-time offenders, it often results in a fine, a diversion program, or maybe some community service. If you start racking up the Underage Consumption citations, have other alcohol or drug related offenses on your record, or get caught in the wrong county, it could mean more serious penalties.
Commonly, Underage Consumption charges are brought by the prosecuting authority for where evidence of the consumption occurred. What does that mean? It means, if the cops found you drunk in Eden Prairie, then Eden Prairie will likely prosecute your case. But if you got drunk in St. Louis Park. Then went to Taco Bell in Eden Prairie – where the cops found you wasted eating a chalupa with fire sauce– then either jurisdiction can prosecute you. But that rarely happens.
Also, you do not need to be drunk to be guilty of Underage Consumption in Minnesota. Any level of alcohol in your system will suffice. Minnesota’s Minor Consumption statute does, however, provide an affirmative defense.
It is an affirmative defense to Underage Consumption of Alcohol in Minnesota, if you can prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant consumed the alcohol in their parent’s (or guardian’s) home with their consent. Which means, your mom is taking the witness stand to testify. Especially if she was the one holding your legs while you did a keg stand in your basement.
In all seriousness, it is not uncommon to have parents who allow their children – at some reasonable age – to drink alcohol in their home. Under their supervision. Maybe a glass of wine at dinner. Or a beer at a backyard BBQ. Some parents want to have the opportunity to teach their children how to drink responsibly and not abuse alcohol. To each, their own. And in Minnesota, this situation can be an affirmative defense to Underage Consumption.
Robert H. Ambrose is a Minneapolis Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer. He represents good people in unfortunate situations. If you, or someone you know, has been charged with a crime, contact our office for a free consultation.