Arkansas Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charges and Penalties

Minor in possession (MIP) laws in Arkansas aim to curb the use and abuse of alcohol by young people. For a long time, MIP laws punished minors only if they were caught holding an alcoholic beverage or if alcohol was found in the minor's vehicle. Arkansas has since clamped down on underage drinking: If you are under age 21 and an officer confirms that you have alcohol in your body, this will be considered possession and a citation will be issued.

Penalties for Underage Drinking and Possessing Alcoholic Beverages in Arkansas

In Arkansas, it is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to purchase, consume, or possess beer, wine, or liquor. Here are the penalties for violating this law:

  • You will be subject to a fine of not less than $100 and not more than $500.
  • The magistrate or judge can impose either of the following penalties:
    1. require the person under age 21 to write an essay about beer, wine, or liquor, and
    2. place the person under age 21 on probation.

Minors younger than 18 will be punished under Arkansas' juvenile delinquency laws.

Arkansas provides Good Samaritan protections for underage individuals who seek emergency medical assistance, remain on the scene, and cooperate with emergency officials. A person who receives Good Samaritan protections is immune from prosecution.

(Ark. Code § 3-3-203 (2021).)

Penalties for Furnishing Alcoholic Beverages to an Underage Person in Arkansas

It is also illegal for any adult to furnish or give beer, wine, or liquor to someone under the age of 21.

Unknowingly Furnishing Alcoholic Beverages to a Minor

Any person who unknowingly sells or gives liquor to a minor (younger than 18) will be guilty of violating state law. The penalties include:

  • First offense: You may be fined not less than $200 and not more than $500.
  • Second and subsequent offenses: You may be charged with committing a Class A misdemeanor crime. The penalties include up to a year in county jail and a fine of $2,500.

(Note: This law refers to a minor whereas the other related laws refer to persons under age 21.) (Ark. Code § 3-3-201 (2021).)

Knowingly Providing Alcoholic Beverages to an Underage Person

It is illegal for any person to knowingly provide any alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21. (This section does not apply to serving a family member or using wine in a religious ceremony.) The penalties include:

  • First offense: You may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor and sentenced to up to a year in jail plus fines.
  • Second and subsequent offenses: If you are convicted of violating this law within three years of your first conviction, you can be charged with a Class D felony. This is punishable by up to six years in state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

(Ark. Code § 3-3-202 (2021).)

Penalties for Selling Alcoholic Beverages to an Underage Person

It is unlawful for any person to sell an alcoholic beverage to a person under age 21 in exchange for money or another item of value. The penalties include:

  • First offense: You will be charged with a Class D felony and face up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
  • Second and subsequent offenses: If you are convicted of violating this law within five years of your first conviction, you will be charged with a Class C felony. This is punishable by a prison sentence ranging from three to ten years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

(Ark. Code § 3-3-202 (2021).)

Penalties for Underage Persons Handling Alcoholic Beverages in Arkansas

It is unlawful for anyone under 21 to handle, sell, or transport alcoholic beverages except:

  • A person 18 or older employed by a licensed wholesaler or winery may handle alcoholic beverages at the place of business with the written consent of a parent or guardian.
  • A person 18 or older may handle or sell beer and wine at a retail grocery establishment with the written consent of a parent or guardian.
  • A person 19 or older may handle or sell alcoholic beverages at a licensed establishment for on-premises consumption (such as a restaurant, hotel, or private club.)

Violating this section will result in a fine of no less than $10 and no more than $100. The Alcoholic Beverage Control Division can cancel, revoke or suspend the license or permit of the business.

(Ark. Code § 3-3-204 (2021).)

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If you've been cited for violating the law or charged with a crime, contact an Arkansas criminal defense lawyer for assistance.

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