California Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charges and Penalties

California’s minor in possession (MIP) laws aim to deter underage drinking. Minors can be charged with an MIP offense for consuming alcohol in public, possessing alcohol, purchasing alcohol, or even holding an unopened container.

Drinking and Possessing Alcohol

It is illegal for any person under the age of 21 to drink or possess alcohol. A violation of this law will result in the following penalties:

  • a fine of $250, and
  • 24 to 32 hours of community service that does not interfere with attending school or working at your place of employment.

A second or subsequent offense for violating this law will result in:

  • a fine not to exceed $500, and
  • 36 to 48 hours of community service that does not interfere with attending school or working at your place of employment.

A conviction will also result in a one-year driver’s license suspension by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The judge can order community service to be performed at an alcohol or drug treatment program or the county coroner’s office if available in the area where the violation occurred or where you reside.

California Business & Professional Code Section 25658 (e1)

Police Officers Can Seize Alcoholic Beverages in Possession of a Minor

A peace officer who has lawfully entered the premises can seize any alcoholic beverages in plain view that are in the possession of a minor under the following conditions:

  • at a social gathering that is open to the public
  • where ten or more people under age 21 are consuming alcohol in public, or
  • at a social gathering that is not being supervised by a legal guardian or parent.

A peace officer can destroy any alcoholic beverages seized in an open container. Unopened containers will be impounded for up to seven working days. The alcohol will remain impounded until a release is requested by the lawful owner who is 21 years or older. The beverages will be destroyed if no request is received.

Furnishing Alcoholic Beverages to a Minor

A person who furnishes an alcoholic beverage to a minor will face these penalties:

  • a fine of $1,000, and
  • 24 hours of community service that does not interfere with attending school or working at your place of employment.

California Business & Professional Code Section 25658 (e2)

Any retail business that is licensed to sell alcohol that knowingly allows a person under 21 to consume alcohol on the premises will be charged with a misdemeanor offense, even if the licensee did not know the person was under 21. The penalties include the following:

  • a fine of up to $1,000, and
  • six months to one year in county jail.

California Business & Professional Code Section 25658 (c)

If you furnish, give, or sell an alcoholic beverage to a person under age 21, you will be charged with a misdemeanor if the underage person consumes the alcohol and causes serious bodily injury or death to himself, herself of another person. The penalties include the following:

  • a fine of up to $1,000, and
  • six months to one year in county jail.

California Business & Professional Code Section 25658 (c3)

Police officers may use people under 21 to catch licensees, agents, or employees of licensees who furnish or sell alcohol to minors. Anyone under the age of 21 who purchases or attempts to purchase alcohol while under the direction of a police officer cannot be prosecuted for the offense. The law enforcement agency must notify licensees with 72 hours if a citation will be issued as a result of the decoy program.

California Business & Professional Code Section 25658 (f)

More information about the alcoholic beverage laws and regulations can be found in California’s Business and Professions Code . For help fighting a misdemeanor charge or an MIP violation, contact a California criminal defense attorney for legal advice.

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