If you read my other article about Minors and DUI, you will see that I addressed what happens when a minor was driving under the influence. So what about someone <21 who has alcohol (but not in a car, or driving)? A worthwhile mention is “Minor in Possession”, which will trigger both court and DMV consequences. It is important to note that a minor just simply in possession of alcohol can trigger license suspension.
California Minor In Possession of Alcohol
Business and Professions Code 25662 is normally referred to as “minor in possession”. As it is written, this section makes it illegal for anyone <21 to have alcohol in their possession on any street, highway, public place, or any place open to the public (again, there is no requirement that this needs to occur in a car). (Again, I am referring to “minors” here as someone under 21, not 18). The fine is $250 or 24-32 hours of community service. Subsequent violations are fined at $500, or 36-48 hours of community service, or both. Not to mention the officer can seize any alcohol in the minor’s possession.
It is also important to mention that BP § 25662 can be charged as a misdemeanor or infraction. I want to mention here (like my post about Driving without a license), that some areas in California, such as Los Angeles has “downgraded” certain misdemeanors to infractions, including BP § 25662. BUT, the officer still has the discretion to charge it as a misdemeanor depending on circumstances.
You are probably wondering at this point how BP § 25662 can trigger a DMV suspension if there wasn’t driving involved. If you read on the DMV website, way on the bottom of the section for BP § 25662 allows for other penalties, including VC § 13202.5. Under this section, a conviction of BP § 25662 for someone >13 and <21 allows the court to suspend the person’s driver’s license for one year. And if the minor does not yet have a license, the court will order the DMV to delay issuing the driver’s license for one year. This suspension may sound harsh, especially for students who need to drive to and from school and/or work. However, the law allows for the court to approve a “critical need to drive” upon petition and review.
In sum, when California enacted its Zero Tolerance laws, they really meant zero tolerance. If a minor was driving under the influence, the charges can be very severe. Remember that criminal court proceedings are separate from DMV proceedings, and the complications between the two entities can make it very difficult for a minor to regain his or her privilege to drive.