This piece summarizes Maine violations involving minors possessing or consuming alcohol. The recent trial of a Falmouth couple on charges of allowing minors to consume alcohol at a party at their residence demonstrates how much trouble a person can get into for this conduct. Many parents are convinced that it is better to host a party at their own residence, where their high school or college-age children can drink with their friends, than to have the kids out drinking somewhere else in potentially dangerous circumstances. Unfortunately for parents determined to pursue this course, it is illegal and they should be aware that many prosecutors will seek jail time upon conviction. What follows is a rundown on the laws that pertain to minors drinking or possessing alcohol and those who supply minors with alcohol or allow them to drink on their premises.
PENALTIES FOR MINORS POSSESSING, CONSUMING OR TRANSPORTING ALCOHOL.
It is a juvenile crime for a person under age 18 to possess or consume alcohol, or to transport it in a motor vehicle under that person’s control. For a person who is at least 18 years of age but not yet 21, possessing or consuming alcohol is a civil infraction, punishable by a fine only. A first offense fine ranges between $200.00 and $400.00; a second offense ranges between $300.00 and $600.00; and a third offense carries a $600.00 fine. It is also a civil infraction for a person who is at least 18 but not yet 21 to transport alcohol in a motor vehicle under that person’s control. Illegal transportation of alcohol by a minor carries a fine and a court-ordered license suspension. A first offense fine can be up to $500.00, a second offense fine is between $200.00 and $500.00 and a third offense fine is between $400.00 and $500.00. All minors who are adjudicated of either the juvenile crime or the civil infraction of illegal transportation of alcohol by a minor will have their licenses suspended by the court for the following periods: for a first offense, 30 days; for a second offense, 90 days; and for a third or subsequent offense, 1 year. There are exceptions that allow minors to transport alcohol in a motor vehicle if the transportation occurs: (1) in the scope of employment, (2) at the request of a parent, guardian or custodian, or (3) when the alcohol is in the vehicle’s trunk or in a locked glove compartment and the minor is not aware it is there.
PENALTIES FOR THOSE WHO PROVIDE ALCOHOL TO A MINOR OR ALLOW A MINOR TO CONSUME ALCOHOL IN A PLACE UNDER THEIR CONTROL.
A person who procures alcohol for a minor, or furnishes, gives, sells or delivers alcohol to a minor commits a Class D crime, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a maximum fine of $2,000.00 (with one exception discussed below). For a first offense, if the minor is less than 18 years old, the crime carries a mandatory minimum $500.00 fine. A second offense within 6 years of the first conviction carries a mandatory minimum $1,000.00 fine, and a third offense within 6 years carries a mandatory minimum $1,500.00 fine. The conduct becomes a Class C crime if the minor consumes the alcohol and the consumption in fact causes serious bodily injury or death to the minor or another person. Causation is established if the death or serious bodily injury would not have occurred but for the minor having consumed the alcohol. Class C crimes are punishable by up to 5 years in prison, up to a $5,000.00 fine, and up to 2 years of probation.
It is also a Class D crime to allow a minor who is under a person’s control to possess or consume alcohol, or to allow any minor to possess or consume alcohol in a place under the person’s control (with one exception discussed below). A first offense is punishable by a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.00 if the minor is under age 18. A second or subsequent offense of allowing consumption, within 6 years of a first offense, is punishable by a minimum $2,000.00 fine (which is also the maximum fine for this class of crime). This is the offense that gets people into trouble when they fail to stop a minor from possessing or consuming alcohol in their home or other place under their control. The offense is frequently committed when people under age 21 consume alcohol in their own home, apartment or dormitory room with their underage peers. A 20-year-old college student who possesses or consumes alcohol commits a civil infraction, but as soon as that same student gives a beer to a fellow 20-year-old student, or allows the fellow student to drink in his or her dorm room, that’s a criminal offense. The offense is also frequently committed by parents who allow friends of their underage children to consume alcohol in their home, under the theory that this is safer than it would be if the kids were out drinking somewhere else. Note that it is not necessary for the person who owns or controls the premises to openly endorse the possession or consumption of alcohol by minors on those premises. All that is required is for the person in control of the premises to be aware of the possession or consumption and to allow it to occur. This offense also becomes a Class C crime if the minor’s consumption of alcohol in fact causes serious bodily injury or death to the minor or another person, which could occur if, for instance, the minor were to drink to a state of alcohol poisoning or crash a car.
EXCEPTION FOR IN-HOME CONSUMPTION IN PRESENCE OF PARENT.
There is an exception that makes it legal to serve liquor to a minor in a home, in the presence of the minor’s parent, guardian or custodian. If a parent serves alcohol to her own underage child in the family home, that is not illegal, but it is illegal to serve alcohol to the child’s underage friends, unless the parents, guardians or custodians of those friends are present.
This post does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. The author does not have an attorney-client relationship with anyone who reads this piece based on the person having read this piece. This post is presented for general, informational purposes only.