Breaking it down
Alcohol offenses in Virginia target drinkers who are underage, consume alcohol in public, or show signs of intoxication in public. Crimes related to alcohol tend to be misdemeanors with relatively small fines of up to $250 but if you are facing legal troubles, don’t hesitate to contact an alcohol attorney from Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico today.
- Penalties are stiffer for underage drinkers, who may incur a minimum $500 fine, probation, 50 hours of community service, and a possible driver’s license suspension.
- Penalties also are more severe for drinking or serving alcohol on public elementary or secondary school grounds and can include up to six months in jail and $1,000 maximum fine.
- Many alcohol charges are based on the offense being committed in public. A defense exists when it can be shown the place doesn’t meet the definition of “public” under Virginia law.
Virginia law prohibits consumption of alcohol in public, consumption by people under age 21, and behaving or appearing as though intoxicated in public places. The same law that makes public intoxication a crime also makes it a misdemeanor offense to swear or curse in public.
Many charges related to alcohol in Virginia are minor misdemeanors with fines of $250 or less. Paying the fine without contesting the charge amounts to a guilty plea and therefore a permanent criminal record. Under some circumstances, such as when the person charged is under 21, when there are previous drug or alcohol convictions, or the offense was committed on school grounds, fines can be much higher and penalties may include probation, loss of driving privileges, community service, or jail time.
Many alcohol-related charges hinge on the offense having been committed in a public place. A defense exists when it can be shown that the place did not in fact meet the definition of “public” under Virginia law or when police action brings a person out in public. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help navigate the nuances of those legal definitions.
Alcohol Offenses in Virginia
- Drinking in Public — VA Code §4.1-308
Virginia Code §4.1-308 makes it a misdemeanor crime drink alcohol in public, or to offer a drink to another person even if that person refuses. A conviction carries a penalty of up to $250. Drinking or serving alcohol on public school grounds has a more severe penalty of up to six months in jail and a $1,000 maximum fine.
- Public Intoxication — VA Code §18.2-388
A person who shows signs of intoxication, whether as the result of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicants, in a public place can be charged with a minor misdemeanor in Virginia. Typically the penalty is a fine up to $250, but fines can be greater if the person has previous drug or alcohol convictions. Defenses to the charge include demonstrating that the person wasn’t intoxicated or that the place wasn’t public.
- Underage Possession of Alcohol — VA Code §4.1-305
In Virginia, someone under 21 can be arrested for underage possession of alcohol when buying, possessing or drinking alcohol, or even attempting to do so. Appearing intoxicated can give police sufficient cause to stop and question someone and administer a breath test. The crime is a misdemeanor with a minimum $500 fine, as well as probation and a sentence of 50 hours of community service, and the possibility of a driver’s license suspension.
Facing Alcohol Related Charges in Virginia?
If you’ve been charged with a crime related to alcohol in Virginia, contact an alcohol attorney from Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help evaluate the details of your case and your options. For an appointment at our office, call us at (540) 343-9349.