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Maryland Underage Drinking Defense

Protecting Those Under 21 from Life-long Consequences

The days when parents could look the other way when high school and college students consumed alcohol have long disappeared with the nationwide crackdown on underage drinking and DUI offenses.  While many kids under 21 view consuming alcohol as a rite of passage that is experienced and shared by all of their friends, Maryland law imposes tough consequences on underage drinkers.  The formal penalties under Maryland law can include loss of driving privileges, significant fines, mandatory use of an ignition interlock device (IID) and more.  The long-term impact of an underage drinking charge can have far more lasting consequences that impact future employment, education, financial aid and housing.

Consumption or Purchase of Alcohol in Maryland by Those Under 21

Maryland law makes it unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol within the state.  The law is effectively a “zero tolerance law” because a person under the age of 21 can be convicted of the offense if chemical testing reveals a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent or higher.  This means even minuscule amounts of alcohol in the blood of someone under the age of 21 will constitute a violation.  The consequences of a conviction are serious because the underage drinker will lose his or her driving privileges for 3-6 months.  If you are underage and caught consuming or buying alcohol, you also will face a fine of $500 for a first offense and $1000 for a second offense.  If your child is found to have engaged in underage drinking, he or she also will be required to have an IID device installed in his or her vehicle so that the car cannot be operated without providing a breath sample.  Further, periodic breath samples will also need to be provided as the vehicle is being driven.

Operating a Motor Vehicle with Any Detectable Amount of Alcohol

While the BAC level for criminal penalties under Maryland law for adults is .08 or above, a driver who is under 21 is subject to stricter limits and harsher penalties.  If a driver under the age of 21 tests with any measurable amount of alcohol (technically .02 percent), the driver may face a DUI charge.  When someone is under 21 and convicted of an underage driving with alcohol in one’s blood, the driver may face significant fines, a six month suspension of driving privileges and mandatory use of an IID for three (3) years for a first offense.  A second underage DUI offense may result in revocation of the minor’s driving privileges.

There are other alcohol-related offenses that may be relevant in underage drinking cases in Maryland including:

  • Providing Alcohol to a Person under 21: A single first time offense may result in a maximum fine up to $2,500 and as much as $5,000 in fines for multiple violations.
  • Selling Fake IDs: Maximum term of incarceration of two years for each fake ID along with a $2,000 fine for each ID and potential criminal liability for violations of federal law.
  • Possessing False Identification: A conviction for possessing a fake ID can result in a maximum two-month jail term and a fine up to $500.  Conviction for this offense also may result in suspension/revocation of a minor’s driver’s license.

Although Maryland law enforcement agencies and prosecutors take underage drinking, underage DUI or DWI and other alcohol-related offenses seriously, our experienced Maryland underage drinking defense attorneys may be able to obtain dismissal or acquittal of the charge based on a number of defense strategies including:

  • Challenging BAC chemical testing
  • Attacking legal justification for stopping someone under 21 on the street or in his or her car
  • Seeking exclusion of incriminating statements
  • Parental supervision exemption to consuming alcohol (strict conditions apply)

These are just a handful of examples of defenses we use to protect the future of high school and college kids who commit mistakes that may be more a manifestation of lack of maturity than criminal intent.  We know that parents whose kids that are under 21 may be concerned about the impact of an underage drinking charge on their kid’s future.  At The Law Offices of Gary H. Gerstenfield, P.C., our Maryland underage drinking defense lawyers’ work diligently to minimize the impact of underage drinking charges on the future academic and employment prospects of young adults.