Football Season and Underage Drinking
By Attorney Jennifer Schulte: We are right in the middle of college football season. After today’s game I have sore legs from climbing the stairs and walking from our tailgate to the game. I have a sunburn on my knees, arms, face and neck. I’m basically beat but our team won and that makes it all worth it. Football is fun to watch and the noise and smells and sounds are just part of the amazing experience of being at a live game. For many football fan, alcohol is a main component in celebrating the game. At our tailgate we had this phenomenal brunch with mimosas and then afterward a low country boil with maple whisky. But I’m over 21 years old. We have a designated driver. The only person at our tailgate underage was my friend’s daughter who is 13 months old and no one was filling her Sippy cup with booze.
While walking across campus I observed many young students partaking in similar tailgates. The thought crossed my mind “how many of those celebrating were underage?” Underage possession of alcohol is a second degree misdemeanor in Florida. The potential punishment is up to sixty days in jail for the first offense and a fine of up to $500.00. The court is required to revoke or withhold the underage person’s driver’s license for a minimum of six months up to twelve months. If the offense is your second or subsequent offense your charge of underage possession of alcohol will be classified as a first degree misdemeanor which carries a possible sentence of up to twelve months in jail and a revocation of your driver’s license for two years. Florida Statute Sec. 562.111
It is important to note that mere possession of alcohol is a crime and not just drinking or consumption. If you are handing an unopened beer bottle to your friend at a bar or club you are liable. If you are moving a case of wine from a vehicle to your neighbor’s home you are liable. There are countless circumstances in which you might find yourself in possession of alcohol (even unopened) while underage. There are certain exceptions to the rule: if you are employed under the provisions of Florida Statute 562.13 and acting in the scope of your employment; if you are tasting alcoholic beverages as a student (at least 18 years old) as part of the student’s curriculum at a postsecondary educational institution but you cannot consume or swallow.
It is interesting to note that a parent cannot give permission to an underage person to consume or possess alcohol, but an employer can if they follow the statute. In the last year there are several Florida lawmakers that have worked to close a legal “loophole” concerning adults providing alcohol to minors outside a residence. The new law addresses the situation of a party at a state park or vacant lot (like for a tailgate) in which adults were not being held liable for providing alcohol to minors. The bill passed this past year that makes it a first degree misdemeanor to allow underage drinking if it is your second offense. For the first time offender the charge is a second degree misdemeanor. The policy makers passed the new bill that addressed Florida’s loophole in order to safeguard our minors.