New York Minor in Possession of Alcohol Laws and Penalties

A minor in New York may not purchase or possess alcohol with the intent to consume it, with few exceptions (see below). (New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65 & 65-c.) It is also illegal for anyone to furnish alcohol to a minor, or to make false statements about a minor’s age in order to facilitate a sale to that minor. (New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65 & 65-a.)

Exceptions to the Rule

New York recognizes two exceptions to the general rule prohibiting minors from possessing or consuming alcohol.

  • Educational programs. Students may taste or consume alcoholic beverages in educational courses that are licensed or registered by the state department of education. This exception applies only when the consumption is a requirement of the course, and consumption is solely for instructional purposes during class. (New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65-c.)
  • Adult family members. Minors may possess and consume alcohol that is provided by that minor’s parent or guardian. (New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65-c (2)(b).)

Penalties

A violation of New York’s minor in possession law is a civil offense, which subjects the violator to fines and other consequences, but it is not a criminal conviction. Minors who unlawfully possess alcohol may not be arrested, but they may be summoned to appear in court, where a judge may impose one or all of the following penalties:

  • Fines. Minors who violate New York’s minor in possession laws may be fined up to $50.
  • Alcohol awareness programs. Violators may be ordered to take part in alcohol awareness programs established under New York state law.
  • Community service. Minors may be ordered to complete up to 30 community service hours. (New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65-c (3).)

Police officers may seize illegally possessed alcohol and take it into custody to be destroyed. (New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65(5) &(6).)

Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

It is illegal in New York to furnish alcohol to a minor. This includes selling, delivering, or giving alcohol to someone while knowing (or having reason to know) that the recipient is a minor. Persons who are licensed to sell alcohol in New York can lose their license for such violations. Violators may also be subject to other criminal penalties under New York law. (New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65.) However, adults who provide alcohol to minors under the following circumstances are protected from liability.

  • Parents and legal guardians. Parents and guardians may legally furnish alcohol for their minor children or wards. ((New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65-c(2)(b).)
  • Instructors of certain educational programs. Instructors of certain educational courses (described above) are also protected from liability under this law. (New York Al. Bev. Con.Section 65(5).)
  • Reasonable reliance on photo ID cards. Adults are protected from liability when they rely on government issued photographic identification as proof of age. However, this protection applies only when, under the circumstances, the adult had no other reason to believe that the purchaser was a minor. (New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65(6)(a).)

An adult who refuses to sell or otherwise provide alcohol to a person whom the adult believes is a minor is protected from any fines or penalties that might otherwise apply to such a refusal (for example, if the would-be purchaser turns out to be of legal drinking age). However, refusals based instead on race, creed, color, or national origin are not protected from such fines or penalties. (New York Al. Bev. Con.Section 65.)

Misrepresenting a Minor's Age

Anyone who misrepresents a minor’s age in order to facilitate the sale of alcohol to that minor is guilty of a criminal offense. Upon conviction, the offender will be fined up to $200, imprisoned for up to five days, or both.
(New York Al. Bev. Con. Section 65-a.)

Getting Legal Help

Because local procedures, courts, district attorneys office and attitudes towards the New York 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.

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