A minor younger than 21 in West Virginia may not buy, possess, consume, or sell alcohol, with few exceptions (see below). (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19(a)(1).) Additionally, a minor may not buy, possess, consume, or sell any "non-intoxicating beer," which includes any brewed or fermented drink that contains between one half of one percent and twelve percent alcohol by volume. (W.Va. Code Section 11-16-3(5).) It is also illegal for a minor to knowingly provide false information about the minor's age (for example, by using a false ID or birth certificate) in order to obtain alcohol or non-intoxicating beer. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 61-8-27a.)
West Virginia recognizes three exceptions to the general rule prohibiting minors from buying, possessing, or selling alcohol.
Compliance investigations. Minors between ages 18 and 21 may attempt to buy alcohol or non-intoxicating beer as part of compliance investigations under the direction of law enforcement or the West Virginia Alcohol Beverage Administration. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19(3).)
Employment. An establishment licensed to sell alcohol may employ minors between ages 18 and 20 to sell or deliver—but not consume— alcohol and non-intoxicating beer. A minor between 16 and 18 may also work in licensed establishments, but may not sell or deliver alcohol or non-intoxicating beer. (W.Va. Ann. Code Sections 11-16-19(2)& 60-8-20(a).)
Adult family members. A minor may possess and consume alcohol that is provided by an adult who is related to the minor by blood or marriage. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19(3)(c)).)
A violation of West Virginia’s minor in possession laws is misdemeanor. Penalties vary by violation.
Underage purchase, possession, sale, or consumption. Violations carry a fine of up to $500, up to 72 hours in jail (or a juvenile detention facility), or both (as decided by the judge). The judge may also order up to one year of probation in lieu of jail time for first offenses. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19(3)(a).)
Misrepresenting age. Violators will face a fine of up to $100, up to 72 hours in jail, or both. The judge may also order up to a year of probation in lieu of jail time for first offenses. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19(3)(b).)
An adult in West Virginia may not knowingly buy for, give, or furnish alcohol or non-intoxicating beer to minors; and a licensee—someone licensed to sell alcohol in West Virginia—may not allow minors to be in or consume alcohol in a licensed establishment. However, minors younger than 18 may be in licensed establishments when in the presence of a parent or when making a lawful (non-alcohol) purchase. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-18(a)(3)&(17).)
Alcohol sales. Adults who provide alcohol to minors may be charged with a misdemeanor, which is punishable by 30 days tosix months in jail, a fine between $25 and $500, or both (as decided by the judge). (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-18(b).)
Non-intoxicating beer sales. Adults who provide non-intoxicating beer to minors may be charged with a misdemeanor; which carries a fine of up to $100, up to 10 days in jail, or both. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19.)
Licensees. Licensees may face harsher penalties for providing alcohol to minors, allowing minors to illegally be in licensed establishments, or allowing minors younger than 18 to sell alcohol. Violations carry fines between $100 and $5,000, between 30 days and one year in jail, or both. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 60-3A-25.)
Defense to conviction. An adult may have a defense against a conviction if the adult reasonably relied on photographic identification or other facts that indicated that the minor was not underage at the time of the sale, and the adult had no other reason to believe that the minor was underage. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 60-3-22(b).)
Because local procedures and attitude towards the West Virginia 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.