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Selling, Giving, or Providing Alcohol to Minors

At the end of a long bartending shift, Kara passed a vodka tonic to what felt like her 500th customer that night. Almost immediately, a suited man came up to the bar and told her to step to the back. She had just sold alcohol to a 20-year-old, and she was being charged with a crime.

It might seem like a nightmare, but people are convicted of selling or giving alcohol to minors in California even if they didn't know the person was underage. You don't even have to be a bartender or sales clerk to be convicted. Any adult who gives alcohol to someone under 21 can be charged with a misdemeanor under the California Business and Professions Code 25658.

If you have been charged with selling or giving alcohol to a minor, you may be facing up to 6 months in jail. Your business may lose your alcohol license. Don't face these consequences alone. California criminal defense attorney William S. Kroger has years of experience defending people like you. Contact the Kroger Law Group at 323-655-5700 or message us to set up a free, confidential consultation today.

What is California's Law About Giving Alcohol to a Minor?

No person in California can give alcohol to a person under the age of 21.

Specifically, California Business and Professions Code, article 25658(a), makes it a misdemeanor to:

  • Sell, furnish, give, or
  • Cause to be sold, furnished, or given away
  • Any alcoholic beverage
  • To any person under 21 years of age.

A special section applies if you operate a bar, restaurant, or other business with an on-sale alcohol license. This is a strict liability crime, which means you can be guilty of a misdemeanor if you let a minor drink alcohol in your establishment, even if you didn't know that the person was under 21.

Can Parents Give Alcohol to Their Children in California?

No. There is no parental exception to this law. It is still a crime even if you are only letting your minor child taste alcohol from your glass at a restaurant. What's more, your child would also be guilty of a misdemeanor for drinking an alcoholic beverage in a place where alcohol is sold.

Importantly, there is no exception to the law when you are at home. While it is unlikely you will get caught, providing a beer to your 20-year-old is illegal even if you are both at home.

Does Los Angeles use Undercover Agents to Catch People Selling Alcohol to Minors?

Yes. The California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) gives money to local law enforcement like LAPD to conduct undercover operations. Undercover cops don't stop at trying to trick grocery store clerks. They also target random people near liquor stores. They will send in minors to approach you on the street trying to convince you to go inside buy a bottle for them. If you do, you will be cited for furnishing alcohol to a minor even though you never would have done so without their efforts.

What is the Penalty for Giving Alcohol to a Minor in California?

Selling, giving, or providing alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by a mandatory $250 fine and/or 24-32 hours of community service. The community service must take place at an alcohol or drug treatment facility or a county coroner's office.

If the minor drinks the alcohol the results in someone suffering great bodily injury or death, then the penalty for the crime increases. It is still a misdemeanor, and it is punishable by six months to one year in county jail, a $1000 fine, or both.

Remember that the prosecutor does not have to charge you with this offense if another offense also fits. If the minor was under the age of 18, you could be guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, PC 272, which has a maximum sentence of one year in the county jail and a $2,500 fine.

Can I be Charged With Selling Alcohol to a Minor if They Used a Fake ID?

Usually, this crime has "strict liability," which means that it doesn't matter whether you knew the person was a minor.

However, experienced criminal defense attorneys know that defenses like “mistake of fact” are available in some cases. Laws change, and one way to make the law better for people like you is to challenge concepts like “strict liability” in court.

The legislature has even provided an exception to strict liability for selling alcohol to a minor. It can be used by a licensee charged with selling or allowing a minor to consume alcohol on the premises. If the server looked at the minor's ID and reasonably believed that showed the minor was over 21, that can be used as a defense.

Call Kroger Law Group for Help

If you or your loved one has been charged with selling or giving alcohol to a minor, you don't have to go to court alone. The Kroger Law Group is available to answer your questions and defend you against these or any other charges. Reach out for help on your case. Call us at 323-655-5700 or message us now.

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