Legal Corner

Underage Drinking

Jun 20, 2019

It’s summer!  That means pool parties, graduations, barbecues, and festivals.  How can you or your child be affected by underage drinking?

Kentucky law prohibits minors from possessing or purchasing alcohol and restricts them from being on any premise where alcohol is sold by the drink or consumed on the premises.  Some exceptions are:

  • Alcohol service at any hotel, restaurant, golf course, private club, park, fair, church, school, and other statutorily approved locations.
  • Event holders who obtain written approval from Alcoholic Beverage Control where the sale of alcohol is incidental to a specific family or community event such as weddings, reunions, or festivals.
  • Parents or guardians may furnish alcohol to their children. Other adults can be held criminally liable for assisting in the purchase or delivery of alcohol to any person under the age of 21.  A first offense is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by fines and/or jail time.

Minors violating this law are generally charged with a “status offense” which is not considered “criminal”.  However, if the child is a repeat offender, they could be charged with a “public offense” which would be “criminal”.  Minors are not usually detained for a status offense; but can be if found to have violated court orders or charged or convicted of a public offense.

What if your child is convicted of driving under the influence (DUI)?  Drivers under the age of 21 are deemed legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is equal to or over .02%, which is far below the .08% BAC for drivers over 21.  A conviction of DUI for a driver under 21 could result in license suspension, enrollment in a substance abuse program, fines, community service, or jail time, and vary depending on the number of offenses.  If the driver is under the age of 18 and has a BAC greater than .08%, their license would also be revoked for 12 months or until the age of 18, whichever is greater.

Besides the legal consequences, a minor could also face disciplinary measures by their school if found to be intoxicated on school grounds or at a school function.  Discipline could include expulsion as well as criminal charges.  Also, many colleges require students to disclose criminal convictions in their application.  Alcohol convictions generally do not prevent admission to most universities and would not limit a person’s ability to obtain federal financial aid and student loans; but could prevent a student from selection for admission to an exclusive college or consideration for a competitive scholarship.

While beyond the scope of this article, homeowners should be aware of the liability for any injuries that occur as a result of supplying alcohol to a minor or for allowing excessive drinking. Serious financial consequences could result, and it would most likely mean the end of your block parties.

Underage drinking can result in life-altering circumstances for the child and any adults involved.  It’s great to be the cool parent, but when everything goes south, children need a responsible parent.  Which one will you be?