No one is surprised to hear that Minnesota law prohibits the both the consumption and possession of alcohol by “minors” (those under the age of 21). While minor consumption tickets are relatively common, the effects of a conviction can have devastating and unforeseen effects (the loss of a scholarship, suspension from high school athletic activities, loss of future employment opportunities, etc.).
Minor consumption tickets are misdemeanor criminal offenses and typically require a court appearance, either in juvenile or adult criminal court. Just like all misdemeanor crimes, a minor consumption ticket is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
If you or a loved-one has been ticketed with a minor consumption offense, contact the Balmer Law Office for a free and confidential case evaluation. Minneapolis criminal defense attorney David Balmer is available via the firm's 24-hour hotline: 612-326-4175.
Legal Defenses to Minor Consumption Tickets
Suppressing the State’s Evidence
If police suspect that a minor may have consumed alcohol they will very likely “request” — with more than a small amount of coercion — that the suspect submit to a breath test to confirm the presence of alcohol. When they do so, they are relying on the suspect’s “consent” to search their breath. Evidence of a search (i.e. breath test) must be suppressed (i.e. thrown out) if it is in violation of the Fourth Amendment. A search of a suspect’s breath without a suspect’s consent (or a warrant) is an illegal search and the evidence can be suppressed. A skilled criminal defense attorney will file a motion demanding the court exclude any breath test evidence taken without a suspect’s true consent.
Affirmative Defense to Minor Consumption of Alcohol: Parents’ Permission
Minnesota law does provide a very narrow exception for a minor’s consumption of alcohol. It is lawful for a person under 21 to consume alcohol in their own home with their parents’ permission. This “exception” is actually an affirmative defense — meaning that you must prove your innocence (i.e. that the alcohol was consumed in your home and with your parents’ consent). Note also that the exception does not permit the consumption of alcohol outside of your own home. So, for example, a teenager cannot drink at a friend’s house with their parents’ permission.
And while this narrow exception permits the consumption of alcohol it does not change Minnesota’s not-a-drop rule for underage drinking. Anyone under the age of 21 that is driving, operating or in physical control of a motor vehicle with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system is subject to a misdemeanor criminal offense and a minimum 30 day license suspension.
Diversion Programs for Minor Consumption
In some instances, a minor consumption conviction can be avoided through a court process called diversion. Under a typical diversion program, the defendant may be required to perform community work service, attend an alcohol education class, and remain law-abiding for one year. If successful, the ticket will be dismissed.
Contact the Balmer Law Office — Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney
David Balmer established the Balmer Law Office with one overriding goal: provide aggressive, high-caliber criminal and DWI defense for good people facing serious charges throughout the state of Minnesota.