Nearly every student who passes through the doors of the University of Maryland will have committed an underage drinking offense at some point. While most students never get caught, others may find themselves in trouble with a police officer on their way home from a party or while walking across campus with alcohol in their bag.
If you or a loved one is a UMD student who has been charged with underage drinking or underage possession of alcohol, you should call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice. Our underage drinking lawyers for UMD students understand that you could face expensive penalties that could interrupt your life and put a black mark on your record if you are convicted of underage drinking. For help with your case, call our attorneys today to set up a free legal consultation. Our number is (410) 694-7291.
Underage Drinking Laws in Maryland
Under Md. Code Criminal Law § 10-114, it is illegal for anyone under 21 to possess or consume alcohol. There are some obvious exceptions to this law, such as being able to possess alcohol if you are working at a bar or restaurant or being able to consume alcohol for a religious ceremony (e.g., communion wine). Otherwise, consumption or possession of alcohol before you turn 21 can receive a citation.
Underage drinkers have other potential charges to look out for as well. In addition to making it illegal to drink underage, Maryland law makes it a crime to use a fake ID or misrepresent your age to get alcohol. It is also illegal to provide a minor with alcohol.
In addition to charges specifically affecting drinkers under 21, there are other potential charges you could face while drinking. Drinking and driving is illegal throughout Maryland. If you are caught drinking and driving or driving under the influence of alcohol, you could face penalties for DUI or DWI as well as underage drinking charges. Moreover, it is a separate offense to have an open alcohol container in your car, leading to additional charges.
Penalties for Underage Drinking in MD
Fortunately, even though the offense of underage drinking is listed within the Maryland Code’s criminal law article, the offense is a civil offense. This means that it is not a crime to drink underage, but it can still lead to a trial and fines. If you are under 18, the penalties and procedures are a bit different, but you can still face consequences.
These civil offenses still come with a fine. For a first-time violation of § 10-114, you can face a fine up to $500. If this is your second underage drinking violation, the maximum fine is doubled to $1,000.
In some cases, fines and penalties can be “suspended.” This allows you to potentially seek alcohol treatment or work out other arrangements to avoid penalties by participating in programs and classes. Talk to a lawyer about your options.
If you were arrested or cited for other violations along with the underage drinking, you may also face additional penalties for those offenses. For instance, using a fake ID can lead to a driver’s license suspension or other consequences from the Motor Vehicle Administration. Drunk driving, disorderly conduct, assault, and other offenses commonly committed while intoxicated also carry their own penalties. Most of these charges are criminal charges which yield not only higher fines but also the potential for jail time.
Defenses to Under 21 Drinking Charges in Maryland
As mentioned, there are two major exceptions to underage drinking charges. First, you can legally possess alcohol while you are under 21 if you are actively working at a bar or restaurant. Second, you can drink alcohol as part of a religious ceremony, such as taking a sip of communion wine. However, there is one other potential exception.
In Maryland, people under 21 are generally able to drink alcohol at home with their family if they follow certain guidelines. First, the alcohol must be given by a parent or another member of the child’s immediate family. Second, it must be consumed in the family member’s house or the area surrounding it (e.g., on a back porch). Talk to a lawyer about what specifically is required to see if this defense could help in your case.
You can also challenge an underage drinking charge by attacking the officer’s right to stop or charge you with underage drinking. According to § 10-114(b)(2), a police officer or someone else authorized to write a citation cannot stop you or charge you with violating this statute unless they see you with alcohol in your possession. This excuse only applies to the law dealing with consumption of alcohol, not possession. This means that a police officer who smells alcohol on your breath or believes you consumed alcohol should not be able to arrest you or get a conviction unless they actually saw you with alcohol. Talk to a lawyer about whether this defense applies to your case.
Call Our Defense Attorney for UMD Students for Help with Charges for Drinking Under 21
If you or your child attends the University of Maryland and was cited for underage drinking or other charges involving alcohol, call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today. Our UMD underage drinking attorneys can fight the charges against you and work to protect you from penalties and disciplinary hearings at school. To set up a free legal consultation on your case, call us today at (410) 694-7291.