Drinking Underage In Ohio – What Are The Consequences?
Underage possession or consumption of beer or intoxicants is a serious crime in Ohio. The charges are first-degree misdemeanors carrying a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000.00 fine. Worse yet, a conviction may leave you with a “criminal record” which is much more serious than a fine or costs. Fear, shame or guilt may compel you to want to plead guilty to put the charge behind you, but that decision may have long-lasting and unintended consequences.
If you are under 21 years old, drinking alcohol is illegal in the State of Ohio. Ohio Revised Code 4301.69(E)(1) provides that “No underage person shall knowingly order, pay for, share the cost of, attempt to purchase, possess, or consume any beer or intoxicating liquor in any public or private place. No underage person shall knowingly be under the influence of any beer or intoxicating liquor in any public place.”
The same section provides for three recognized exceptions to the law, they are set forth below:
If the person is in the “presence of their parent, legal guardian or spouse who is over 21 years old;”
If the alcohol is consumed as part of a recognized religious service; and
If the alcohol is prescribed for medical treatment.
Section 4301.69(E)(2), sets forth a diversion program for underage offenders. It states, “[i]f the child completes the diversion program to the satisfaction of the court, the court shall dismiss the complaint and order the child’s record in the case sealed under sections 2151.356 to 2151.358 of the Revised Code. If the child fails to satisfactorily complete the diversion program, the court shall proceed with the complaint.” A child is ineligible for diversion if he or she has previously been diverted.
O.R.C 4301.69(A)-(C) also contain harsh penalties for furnishing alcohol to minors or providing them accommodations in which the “owner or occupant” allows a person to remain while the person is possessing or consuming alcohol. Many times police will target the owner of a home, apartment or dorm room wherein minors are drinking.
If you are under 18 at the time of your arrest, your case will be prosecuted in the Juvenile Court. Person under 21, but older than 18 will have their cases heard in the Municipal Court. Often, resolving the matter in court is not the end of the process. Most university students face a disciplinary hearing before a university review board or student government panel. We know how to help you in court and how to help you stay in school.