In Alabama, the legal age to possess and consume alcohol is 21 years old. And, while this rule is often broken by college students—yes, even Auburn men and women— the penalties set in place by the Code of Alabama create serious issues including loss of Driver’s License, fines, and jail time for those charged with a such a crime. If you are caught breaking alcoholic beverage laws in Auburn, you will be charged under one of two statutes. The first, Alabama Code §28-1-5, includes fines and possible jail time, but the second, §28-3A-25, imposes fines, jail, and a loss of your Driver’s License. The key factors in determining which statute you will be charged under are the context of your arrest and how you behave once in custody. It’s important to understand the laws and the consequences of breaking them.
Alabama Code §28-1-5
According to section 28-1-5 of the Code of Alabama, it is against the law for any individual under the age of 21 to “purchase, consume, possess, or to transport” any form of alcoholic beverage in Alabama. An individual charged under this statute faces a fine of $25 to $100 and incarceration of up to 30 days. If you can manage to behave while interacting with the police officer, they will likely charge you under this statute, and it’s important to remember that under this statute, you don’t lose your license.
Alabama Code §28-3A-25
Section 28-3A-25 is a more complete, wide-ranging statute which covers several types of alcohol related offenses. The consequences of being charged under this statute are more severe than those of §28-1-5, including a fine of anywhere from $50 to $500, possible jail time up to 3 months, and a mandatory 3 to 6-month suspension of the offender’s driver’s license. This charge is a misdemeanor.
City of Auburn, citation.
Auburn City has a non-arrest citation that they can issue for a “minor in possession.” Essentially, based on the situation, the Auburn police officer can choose to issue you a citation where in lieu of arrest, you are ordered to appear or pay the fines and costs associated with the citation. The fines and costs associated with the non-arrest citation are $451 and normally do not include the loss of Driver’s License depending on how they are charged. The key to receiving this type of citation over others is how you act when approached by a police officer as they have the option of either arresting you or issuing you the written citation.
“That’s not my Beer”
In Auburn, we are lucky enough to have some great outdoor events such as Auburn University football games and the annual Alpha Psi Rodeo. Now, while these events are largely attended by students and drinking is expected, don’t believe the rumors that a police officer won’t charge you with a minor in possession of alcohol. Alcohol laws may be somewhat less observed on game days, however, it is still illegal to walk around town with an open container under the age of 21. If a police officer sees you with alcohol he has every right to charge you with possession or consumption, even if everyone around you is doing it too. If an officer finds any reason to believe you are in possession of or influenced by an alcoholic beverage, they will have cause enough to investigate further.
The simplest way to avoid being charged with a minor in possession of alcohol is to drink only once you are 21. If you can’t manage that, don’t draw attention to yourself. If a police officer approaches you they have other options then arresting you. Auburn city can write you a citation, and not arrest you. There is no arrest, trip in a patrol car or bond. How you behave when approached plays a big part in the decision to write you a ticket or arrest you. If you’ve been charged as a minor in possession of alcohol, your course of action should be to seek the legal counsel of an experienced criminal attorney, especially one with specific experience in alcohol-related crime. If you are a first-time offender you may want to apply for youthful offender status or pretrial diversion, options which could lessen your sentence and even prevent your charges from being put on your record.