Virginia Minor in Possession of Alcohol: Laws & Penalties

A minor in Virginia may not buy (or attempt to buy), possess, or consume alcohol; or provide false identification or a false age to obtain or consume alcohol. (Virginia Ann. Code Section 4.1-305(A)&(B).) It is also illegal for adults to sell alcohol to minors. (Virginia Ann. Code Section 4.1-304.) There are few exceptions to these rules (see below).

Exceptions to the Rule

Virginia recognizes three exceptions to the general rule prohibiting minors from possessing or consuming alcohol.

  • Employment. A minor may deliver alcohol as part of that minor’s employment, or when the minor’s parent has ordered the alcohol. (Virginia Ann. Code Section 4.1-305(A).)
  • Law enforcement officers. Law enforcement officers younger than 21 may possess alcohol, when necessary and within the scope of their duties. (Virginia Ann. Code Section 4.1-305(A).)
  • Parent or guardian supervision. A minor may be served alcohol by an adult in a private residence when the minor is accompanied by a parent, guardian, or adult spouse. (Virginia Ann. Code Section 4.1-305(A).)

Penalties

A violation of Virginia’s minor in possession laws is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A conviction carries a minimum fine of $500 and probation, including at least 50 hours of community service. When the violator is older than 18, a judge will suspend the defendant's license for at six months to one year. However, if the violator can show hardship, the judge may allow the use of a restricted license during the period of suspension. The judge may also require that a violator be monitored by a local probation program. (Virginia Ann. Code Section 4.1-305(C).)

For violators younger than 18, the judge will suspend driving privileges for six months (or eligibility to apply for driving privileges for six months after the minor becomes eligible). The judge may also impose additional conditions (such as community service or probation) during this period. After the license or eligibility suspension is complete, and the minor has met any conditions that the judge has imposed, the judge will dismiss the charges against the minor. However, if the minor does not meet the conditions, the judge will enter a guilty conviction on the minor’s record. (Virginia Ann. Code Section 16.1-278.9.)

Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

It is illegal in Virginia for an adult to sell alcohol to a minor. (Virginia Ann. Code Section 4.1-304.) A violation is a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both (as decided by the judge). (Virginia Ann. Code Section 18.2-11.) However, a licensee—someone licensed to sell alcohol in Virginia— who notifies authorities of a suspected violation will be immune from the penalties described above, as long as the notification is made in good faith (oddly, there is no requirement for good faith reliance on the minor's representation of his or her age). (Virginia Ann. Code Section 4.1-305(A).)

Getting Legal Help

Because local procedures and attitude towards the Tennessee 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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