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Underage Drinking and the Law

Underage drinking can be detrimental to a child’s future in so many different ways, which is why there are such strict rules and regulations in place when someone is trying to purchase or consume alcohol. Although the United States has set the federal drinking age at 21, some states offer loopholes that will allow underage drinking under certain circumstances. 

Since there are multiple states that have underage drinking loopholes, it can be beneficial for you and your child to go over the laws and possible consequences for underage drinking in your state or any other state that your child visits often. The consequences a child faces for underage drinking all depend on if the child is above or below the legal age of 18. For example, if a college student is found drinking underage on campus they may be given disciplinary action by the school which may include sobriety courses or alcohol safety courses. Some universities even go as far as revoking any grants or scholarships and will require the student to pay their fees in full. Yet, if a college-age student is found illegally consuming alcohol or trying to purchase it, then they could be forced to go to court where they could have their driver’s license suspended, be given fines, or be required to fulfill community service. 

On the other hand, if a juvenile or a child under the age of 18, is found underage drinking then they could be facing a status offense. A status offense describes a crime that is only considered a crime because of the defendant’s age. These cases usually include crimes like underage drinking, truancy, or delinquency. In cases where young children are involved with underage drinking, the focus for consequences usually shifts to the parent or guardian who should be preventing this behavior. Prosecutors were given the power to redirect status offense cases away from the court and to other departments that could provide better resources to fix the root of the problem. Similarly, if a juvenile is found guilty of underage drinking they may be required to attend counseling and education programs, be given fines, have their driver’s license suspended or if their guardian is found guilty as well they may be rehomed. 

If you are a parent that willingly provides alcohol to your child and their friends, you may want to rethink it because of how much trouble a parent can get in for underage drinking. While some parents think they are doing the right thing by allowing their kids to drink in the house rather than them going to do it somewhere else, they are actually putting themselves at risk of being responsible for whatever happens after those kids leave their house. If a kid got drunk at your house, tried driving back to theirs, and got in an accident on the way, you could be held responsible for that accident because you provided the alcohol. In some cases, even if you don’t provide the alcohol directly but underage drinking still occurs on your property, then you could still be held responsible for their actions because it is your house and you are the adult. 

While most states don’t support underage drinking at all, there are a few states that allow underage drinking as long as it is provided by a parent or done at a private residence with a parent present. Although these familial loopholes have nothing to do with safety, there are some loopholes at the federal level that are in place for reasons like religion, education, or employment. A couple of examples include kids taking their communion at church which includes a sip of wine, a culinary student needing to taste different alcohols or an undercover cop who may need to drink to keep their identity safe. 

Despite the conflicting rules for each state, it is still a fact that alcohol can do serious damage to a developing brain. Lead by example and follow the rules, no matter if it makes you seem uncool. Show your kids that drinking isn’t the only way to be cool and have fun. Underage drinking is not worth the consequences and potential ruin it could bring to you and your child’s future. 

By// Jessica Lee

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