The state of Texas takes underage drinking very seriously. Minors under the age of 21 who try to purchase alcohol or are caught drinking alcohol are subject to criminal penalties. However, those who sell alcohol to minors may also face criminal liability. There are defenses available in these cases, however. With the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney, those charged with selling alcohol to minors may be able to raise defenses and have their charges reduced or dismissed.
What constitutes selling alcohol to minors?
In criminal cases, the state has the burden of proof. The state must prove each element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This means that a jury could draw no other conclusion except that the accused did actually commit the crime.
To convict someone for selling alcohol to minors, the state must show that alcohol was negligently sold to a minor.
What is negligence? According to Texas law, an individual is negligent if he should be aware of a risk that certain circumstances exist or that a specific result may occur. The state does not have to prove that the individual actually had to intend to sell alcohol to a minor.
However, if the minor presented identification in which the minor appeared to be over 21 years of age, the accused may be able to avoid charges. The identification must have a physical description, as well as a photograph, that matches the minor’s physical appearance. It must also appear to have been issued by a government agency. Examples include passports, military identification cards, identification cards provided by the Department of Public Safety, or driver’s licenses.
If the identification was scanned and an error message was displayed that noted the identification was invalid, the accused may not use the identification defense.
Those who sell alcohol to minors are responsible for checking identification, even if the business has some type of system in place to identify minors. For example, wristbands and marking minors’ hands with an “X” are common methods used in many bars and nightclubs. Even with these measures, however, the bartender or other employee selling the drink must take the time to ask for valid identification.
Penalties for selling alcohol to minors
Selling alcohol to minors is a class A misdemeanor. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year of incarceration. In addition, a fine of up to $4,000 may also be ordered.
What should I do if I am arrested for selling alcohol to a minor?
Many individuals arrested for selling alcohol to minors are apprehended during undercover sting operations. Some may be reported in other ways. However, if you are arrested for selling alcohol to a minor, you have every right to exercise your right to remain silent. Do not speak to law enforcement officers without an attorney present. These officers are building their case against you and will use your statements against you in court, if possible.
Make notes about what happened prior to your arrest. Did the minor present a valid ID? Did you have any reason at all to suspect that the minor was not actually 21 years old? You may forget these important details, so it is wise to write them down so that you may explain the situation to your attorney.
If you have been arrested, call the Hampton Eppes Law Group today
Attorney Jeff Hampton is a former Texas state prosecutor who knows what evidence the state must present in various criminal cases. To schedule your free consultation with our legal team,call 817-877-5201 or visit www.hamptonlegalgroup.com.