Underage possession of alcohol is a commonly cited crime in Virginia, especially in towns with large college age populations. Underage possession of alcohol is a Class 1 Misdemeanor in Virginia. Assault and Battery and DUI are other examples of Class 1 Misdemeanors. The underage possession of alcohol statute also prohibits the possession of a fake ID to purchase alcohol by persons under 21.
Virginia's underage possession of alcohol statute is found under § 4.1-305 of the VA Code. There are two main parts to the statute.
The first part of the statute prohibits the consumption, possession, and purchase of alcohol to persons whom alcohol may not be legally sold. In the vast majority of cases this applies to persons under 21, although persons that have been interdicted fall under this statute as well.
The second part of the statute prohibits the use or attempt to use any motor vehicle operator's license, birth certificate or student identification card of another person in order to establish a false identification or false age for himself to consume, purchase or attempt to consume or purchase an alcoholic beverage.
Class 1 misdemeanor
Underage possession of alcohol is a class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to a $2500 fine and up to 1 year in jail. It is important to understand, however, that these are maximum penalties and are rarely ever applied.
Mandatory Fine or Community Service
There is a mandatory minimum fine of $500 or a mandatory minimum of 50 hours of community service as a condition of probation supervision. The judge in your case may choose for the defendant whether he wants the defendant to do community service or pay the fine. In some courts the judge will give the defendant a choice.
There is also a mandatory 6 month license suspension, although the defendant may apply for a restricted license. Please see my post on restricted licenses here.
First Offender Program
The good news for those persons charged with underage possession of alcohol is that you may be eligible for pre-conviction probation. If successfully completed the charge will be dismissed.
If the defendant asks the court to enter into the program and the court allows the defendant to enter into the program the defendant must complete a number of requirements, which will vary from court to court. There are some basic requirements that will not change however. The court must require the accused to enter a treatment or education program or both, if available, that in the opinion of the court best suits the needs of the accused.
The court may also suspend the defendant's license for a period of time. If the accused successfully completes the program, about a year after the originally hearing date the court will dismiss the charge against the defendant.
Not Eligible for Expungement
One of the best things about the first offender program is that it does allow the charge to be dismissed, which will help preserve the accused's future ability to gain employment etc... However, it is important to understand that the fact that the accused has been charged (not convicted) with underage possession is not eligible for expungement. The judge in Charlottesville will advise defendants that it is better to be safe than sorry when applying for a job, and to always over disclose if a questions arises.
Cases Will Vary From Court to Court
It is important to speak with an attorney in the area in which you were charged. Like many criminal cases, the way your individual case is handled will vary from court to court.