It Isn’t Always Illegal for Minors to Drink
You’re sitting around with your friends watching the game and having some beers. While you’re reaching for chips, your minor child grabs your beer and starts chugging.
Uh oh. Fear grips you because you’re certain that you just committed a crime. Well, it isn’t illegal for your minor child to drink, at least, not under these circumstances.
Minors May Not Possess/Consume Alcohol
According to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, it is illegal for a minor to possess alcohol. It is also illegal for a minor to consume alcohol. The penalties for possession/consumption of alcohol by a minor are actually quite stiff.
Possession/Consumption is a Class C Misdemeanor, which can include: a fine of up to $500, mandatory community service, mandatory alcohol awareness program, and automatic suspension of the minor’s driver’s license. If the minor isn’t a child, and has two such convictions, then there is a fine from $250-$2,000, and up to 6 months confinement, as well as the other penalties.
—Tex. Alco. Bev. Code § 106.071
In the Visible Presence of Parent/Spouse/Guardian
Although it is still an offense for a child to consume alcohol, there is an affirmative defense to prosecution if it is done in the “visible presence of the minor’s adult parent, spouse, or guardian.” The same goes for possession of alcohol.
Because you’re very observant, you’re probably wondering what the consequences are for providing alcohol to a minor. Well, that is a Class A Misdemeanor (up to 1 year in jail and $4,000 fine). However, a person may purchase or furnish alcohol to a minor if the person is the minor’s parent, spouse, or guardian, and is in their visible presence while the minor consumes it.
—Tex. Alco. Bev. Code § 106.06
Unless the Minor Calls the Police
New laws were put in place in 2011 that prevents prosecution of minors who possess/consume alcohol if they request emergency medical attention for possible alcohol poisoning; whether it is for themselves or another, as long as they remain on the scene and cooperate.
Do NOT Send Me Hate Mail
Just because providing alcohol to your minor child is legal, doesn’t mean that it is a good idea. Also, just because I am informing the public about their legal rights, doesn’t mean that I condone it. The law is the law; and these are the laws of our beloved State. However reckless you think these laws are for children, they are nowhere near as lenient as some other countries.
In many European countries, the legal drinking age is much lower than in the United States, yet their binge drinking rates are still much lower than ours. In Italy, the minimum drinking age is 16, just as in Asturias. On the other end of the spectrum are countries like Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait where alcohol is entirely illegal.
-International Center for Alcohol Policies, “Minimum Age Limits Worldwide”
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Criminal & Family Law Divisions
1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479