A minor in South Carolina may not buy (or attempt to buy), possess, or consume alcohol; or knowingly provide false information to obtain alcohol. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Sections 63-19-2440(A) & 61-4-60.) There are few exceptions to these rules (see below).
Exceptions to the Rule
Pennsylvania recognizes four exceptions to the general rule prohibiting minors from possessing or consuming alcohol, or providing false information to obtain alcohol.
- Employment. Minors 18 and older may serve or clear alcoholic beverages in establishments licensed to sell alcohol during the course of their employment. However, minors may not mix alcoholic drinks or work as bar tenders. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(D).) Minors may also sell or deliver alcohol in unopened containers as part of their employment. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(E).)
- Education. Minors 18 and older may taste—but not consume—alcohol under the direct supervision of an adult instructor, during the course of a licensed and accredited culinary program, when such consumption is a required part of the curriculum. The alcohol must remain in the control of the instructor at all times. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(F).)
- Compliance checks. A minor may receive—but not consume—alcohol if the minor is recruited and authorized by a law enforcement agency to test a person or establishment’s compliance with South Carolina’s minor in possession laws (and related laws prohibiting furnishing alcohol to minors). (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(A).)
- Religious ceremonies. Minors may possess and consume alcohol for religious ceremonies, as long as the alcohol was legally purchased by an adult. Adults who provide alcohol to minors as part of religious ceremonies will not be convicted for violating the law against furnishing alcohol to a minor (see below). (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(C)(3).)
The consequences of violating South Carolina’s minor in possession laws depend on the violation.
Illegal alcohol purchase, possession, or consumption. This type of violation carries a fine between $100 and $200, up to 30 days in jail, or both, as decided by the judge. Violators are also required to complete an approved alcohol prevention education program that is at least eight hours long. The violator may be ordered to pay up to $150 as tuition for such a program. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(A)&(B).)
Misrepresenting age. A minor who misrepresents the minor’s age to buy or consume alcohol will be fined between $100 and $200, ordered to serve up to 30 days in jail, or both, as decided by the judge. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-4-60.)
Alcohol screening tests. If a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe that a minor has consumed alcohol, the officer may require the minor to take an alcohol screening test, as approved by the State Law Enforcement Division. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 63-19-2440(A).)
Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor
It is illegal in South Carolina for an adult to transfer or give alcohol to a minor (except as described below). It is also illegal for a licensee—an adult licensed to sell alcohol in South Carolina— to knowingly sell or permit alcohol to be sold to a minor. Violating these laws is a misdemeanor. A first offense carries a mandatory fine of $200 and $300, up to 30 days in jail, or both (as decided by the judge). A judge will fine second and subsequent offenders between $400 and $500, may order jail time for up to 30 days, or both. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(A)(1)&(2).) A judge will automatically convict a licensee of violating this law, if the licensee failed to require identification to verify a buyer’s age when the buyer ends up being a minor. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(A)(1)&(2).)
Exceptions. In addition to the exception for religious ceremonies (see above), South Carolina recognizes two more exceptions to the rule prohibiting adults from furnishing alcohol to minors.
- Adult spouses. An adult spouse may give alcohol to an underage spouse in the couple’s home. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(C)(1).)
- Parents and guardians. Adults may give alcohol to their minor children or wards in the adult’s home. (South Carolina Code of Laws Ann. Section 61-6-4070(C)(2).)
Getting Legal Help
Because local procedures and attitude towards the South Carolina minor in possession laws vary by community, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer who is familiar with how these cases are handled in your area. This will give you a better chance of achieving the most favorable outcome under the unique circumstances of your case.