Minor in Possession

What is Minor in Possession?

In the state of Washington, "minor in possession" laws address underage drinking and illegal possession of alcohol. RCW §66.44.270 both prohibits others from distributing alcohol to minors and minors from possessing and consuming alcohol.

Furnishing Liquor to Minors:

According to RCW §66.44.270(1), it is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his premises or on any premises under his control.

Minor in Possession and/or Consumption:

According to RCW §66.44.270(2), It is unlawful for a person under the age of twenty-one years:

  1. To possess, consume, or otherwise acquire any liquor.
  2. To be in a public place, or to be in a motor vehicle in a public place, while exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor. For purposes of this subsection, exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor means that a person has the odor of liquor on his or her breath and either:
    1. Is in possession of or close proximity to a container that has or recently had liquor in it; or
    2. By speech, manner, appearance, behavior, lack of coordination, or otherwise, exhibits that he or she is under the influence of liquor.

The law does not require the minor to be in actual possession of alcoholic beverages to be found guilty. A breath test that indicates the minor has consumed alcohol is sufficient to bring charges.

Penalties for a RCW §66.44.270 Violation:

A violation of either subsection (1) or (2) of RCW §66.44.270 is a gross misdemeanor, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.

In addition, if a person under the age of 21 is found to be intoxicated or in possession of alcohol, he may be subject to a number of other penalties including community service, alcohol education classes, fines and drivers' license suspension. According to RCW §66.44.365, if a minor is found guilty of minor in possession or minor consumption, the court shall notify the department of licensing within twenty-four hours after entry of the judgment. This will subject the offender to further penalties.

Defending a RCW §66.44.270 Violation Charge:

If you are charged with furnishing liquor to minors or minor in possession, it is important that you develop your defense strategy immediately. Some issues that must be addressed are whether there was a valid reason for the police to stop you and test you, and the type of test administered, among others. Further, there are a number of exemptions from the prohibition against furnishing liquor to minors and minor in possession. These prohibitions do not apply to:

  1. Liquor given or permitted to be given to a minor by a parent or guardian and consumed in the presence of the parent or guardian.
  2. Liquor given for medicinal purposes to a minor by a parent, guardian, physician, or dentist.
  3. Liquor given to a minor when such liquor is being used in connection with religious services and the amount consumed is the minimal amount necessary for the religious service.
  4. A minor who seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing alcohol poisoning if he would have otherwise been charged under this law and if the evidence for the charge was obtained as a result of the person seeking medical assistance.
  5. A minor who experiences alcohol poisoning and is in need of medical assistance if he would have otherwise been charged under this law and the evidence for the charge was obtained as a result of the poisoning and need for medical assistance.

There are a number of ways to defend charges of furnishing liquor to minors and minor in possession. Your defense strategy is crucial, and the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.