Busted! Not a word you want to hear, but one that can happen very easily if you’re caught buying alcohol for someone under age—even if you didn’t realize they were under age. So, in all good faith you picked up a purchase for a friend who said he or she was 21, and heck, the kid looked it so how were you to know? Unfortunately, the police officer who busted you isn’t going to be interested in that argument. Here’s what to expect if you get caught buying alcohol for a minor.
How You Might Get Caught
There are many ways in which you can get caught supplying alcohol to a minor, whether the person actually drinks it or just keeps it in his or her possession. The most common ways include:
- During sting operations, which usually make use of minors as “bait”
- Public safety operations carried out by police officers
- “Cops in Shops” operations, where police observe alcohol being bought and often given to minors
- Shoulder Tap Stings
These are carried out by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) in collaboration with the police. Additional operations are conducted with retailers to encourage compliance with the laws, and these are:
- The Manager’s Awareness Program (MAP)
- Project SAVE for retailers’ enforcement operations – educating the retailers
- Parent Workshops
- Project SAVE for schools
Unless you are the minor’s parent, spouse or legal guardian and the minor drinks the alcohol in your presence, you are allegedly committing a misdemeanor, which unless there are aggravating circumstances could fall into the Class A, B or C categories according to the Texas Penal Code. Offenders in this category can either be arrested, after which they are taken before a magistrate within 48 hours, or you can receive a citation for your actions.
Some Decent Defenses Your Lawyer Might Use
The first thing you should do if you’re caught buying alcohol for a minor is to contact an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney. Your lawyer will investigate the case and determine how to mount the best possible defense for you.
Some defense arguments used successfully include:
- Not knowing the recipient’s true age for any reason, including the possibility that the minor presented him- or herself as being of age, or that the minor provided photographic proof of identity that appeared to be issued by a relevant government agency;
- Being unaware that the purchase contained alcohol, and
- Serving alcohol to minors on private property, such as during a house party. This defense can work if the host was present during the event.
To mount the right defense argument for your particular case, it’s essential to use a lawyer with experience in cases of minors and drinking, or you could get a harsher punishment than you need. Whether you’re innocent or not of the allegations, you deserve to have the best representation possible. Your lawyer will work on your behalf to maintain your dignity and to ensure that you receive fair treatment by the court.
Paying the Price
The punishment for a misdemeanor conviction of this nature usually includes some or all of the following, depending on the class it falls into:
- A sentence of up to one year in prison
- A fine of up to $4,000
- Community service related to alcohol education or abuse prevention
Obviously, the best method to avoid conviction on these charges is to avoid committing the offense, but if you do so and get busted it’s vital to keep your head and not make things worse for yourself. It’s important that you speak with a qualified DWI attorney right away if you have been busted for serving alcoholic beverages to minors.
*Image courtesy of Willscrlt