Underage drinking is a significant issue in South Carolina and is handled seriously by law enforcement and the court system. Surveys have shown that 20% of teenagers throughout the state drink alcohol, while over half of that number will engage in binge drinking. Being convicted of possession of alcohol while underage in SC can have a serious impact on your life, affecting job opportunities as well as college admissions.
If your child has been charged for possession of an alcoholic beverage or for underage consumption of alcohol they will need a talented lawyer on their side. Our dedicated legal team at TF Law has the experience and skill needed to build an aggressive defense and get the best possible result for their case. Call our Greenville criminal defense attorneys today or schedule an appointment online for a free initial consultation to see how we can help!
Minor in Possession Laws in SC
Possession of an alcoholic beverage by anyone under the age of 21 is a criminal offense in South Carolina. The minor in possession charge may be applied in situations in which an underage individual has bought, possessed, or consumed alcohol.
Notably, there are several exceptions to this under specific circumstances:
- Possession for employment: Individuals 18-20 are permitted to serve alcohol in properly licensed premises as part of their job. They are not allowed to work as a bartender and mix drinks, however.
- Possession for education: Individuals 18-20 are permitted to taste alcoholic beverages for instructional purposes as part of a licensed and accredited culinary school curriculum. They must be supervised by an instructor over the legal age and may not consume alcohol.
- Possession for compliance checks: Minors below the age of 21 may be used by law enforcement agencies to check whether an establishment is following South Carolina law for serving or selling alcohol to a minor.
- Possession for religious ceremonies: Minors below the age of 21 may possess and consume alcohol as part of a religious ceremony. The alcohol must have been purchased by an adult and neither they nor the minor will face criminal charges under South Carolina law.
Penalties For Underage Alcohol Possession
Possession of alcohol by minors is a criminal offense in South Carolina, but the consequences can vary depending on the specifics of the case.
- Purchase, possession, or consumption of an alcoholic beverage by a minor can result in a $100-200 fine and a maximum of 30 days of jail time. The minor in possession of alcohol will also need to successfully take an alcohol education program.
- Misrepresentation of age in order to purchase alcohol can result in the same $100-200 fine and a maximum of 30 days in jail.
Law enforcement officers are allowed to require screening tests for minors so long as they have probable cause to suspect that they have consumed alcohol.
Supplying Alcohol to a Minor
South Carolina prohibits adults from giving, knowingly selling, or allowing alcohol to be sold to a minor. A violation of these laws can result in a misdemeanor charge with a fine of between $200 and $300 and up to 30 days of jail time for a first offense. Subsequent violations can carry fines between $400 and $500 alongside jail time of up to 30 days.
In addition to the exceptions listed above, two more apply to providing a minor with alcohol:
- A spouse of legal drinking age may supply alcohol to an underage spouse as long as it is within the couple's home.
- Parents and guardians may supply alcohol to their underage children as long as it is within their own homes. (Note this does not apply to children other than your own, even if you have permission from their parents.)
Some of the consequences of a MIP conviction in South Carolina include:
- Driver's license suspension of between 6 months and 1 year
- Expensive fines that can total hundreds of dollars
- Educational institutions can require disciplinary hearings and may issue academic suspensions, event bans, or expulsion from school
- Jail time of up to 30 days
A conviction for a minor in possession charge can have a long-reaching negative impact on you. You may be rejected by prospective schools or employers due to your criminal record, have difficulty attending class or work while working around your license suspension, and face strained personal relationships if you are required to serve time in jail. Working with an experienced juvenile criminal defense lawyer will give you the best chances to beat your charge or negotiate for lesser consequences. Our legal team at TF Law will work tirelessly to secure the best possible outcome for your case.
Can You Remove a MIP Charge From Your Record?
There are certain circumstances in which a minor in possession charge can be removed from your criminal record. If a judge has dismissed the case brought against you or your trial results in a verdict of not guilty, the charge is immediately eligible to be expunged. The judge overseeing your case may also grant you eligibility to expunge your record under certain conditions, such as successful completion of an alcohol education course.
If you are convicted of an MIP charge and the judge does not offer you an opportunity to remove it from your record then it will remain there going forward.
How an Attorney Can Help With MIP Charges
Beating a minor in possession charge in court can be difficult, but is certainly not impossible. Contact a dedicated criminal defense attorney at TF Law if you are facing a MIP charge to see what options you have. Our experienced legal team has an in-depth understanding of the laws governing the subject and will explore each avenue that could win your case or result in lesser consequences. We will fight to get you the best possible results for your unique circumstances and provide you with top-level legal representation throughout your case. Call us today or send us a message online to schedule a free initial consultation!