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Alcohol-Related Offenses

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My favorite Homer Simpson quote of all time is, "To alcohol! The cause of...and solution to...all of life's problems."

In the context of criminal law, only part of that statement is true.

Florida law has enacted several laws that deal primarily with alcohol. These laws generally regulate the time, place, and manner in which people can consume alcohol.

The most obvious alcohol-related offenses are DUI offenses. DUI offenses can be as simple as a regular, misdemeanor DUI, or as serious as DUI manslaughter.

However, most crimes that involve the consumption or behavior induced by alcohol are misdemeanors. However, misdemeanors can carry convictions (which cannot come off of your criminal record), fines, probation, and even jail time.

The most common alcohol-related misdemeanor is disorderly intoxication. Disorderly intoxication is a common offense in the more lively parts of Miami-Dade County, such as Downtown Fort Lauderdale or South Beach. Police officers will look for people who are seemingly impaired who may be causing any kind of disturbance. This is quite subjective considering one officer may consider somebody being loud to be "disorderly." Words alone seldom result in the commission of a crime, but the officer's perception of your behavior is enough to get you arrested, whether or not it's warranted.

Other alcohol-related offenses include alcohol possession by a person under 21, otherwise known as "minor in possession."

Florida Statute Section 562.111, entitled "Possession of alcoholic beverages by persons under age 21 prohibited" states that,"It is unlawful for any person under the age of 21 years, except a person employed under the provisions of s. 562.13 acting in the scope of her or his employment, to have in her or his possession alcoholic beverages, except that nothing contained in this subsection shall preclude the employment of any person 18 years of age or older in the sale, preparation, or service of alcoholic beverages in licensed premises in any establishment licensed by the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco or the Division of Hotels and Restaurants. Notwithstanding the provisions of s. 562.45, any person under the age of 21 who is convicted of a violation of this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree."

The statute further goes on to state that, "any person under the age of 21 who has been convicted of a violation of this subsection and who is thereafter convicted of a further violation of this subsection is, upon conviction of the further offense, guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree."

In other words, your first minor in possession offense is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. Your second offense (provided you have been previously convicted of this offense) can result in a maximum sentence of 1 year in jail.

In Florida, it is also illegal (a misdemeanor) to consume alcohol in front of a store. It is also illegal to have an open container in your car, however whether the driver or passenger has an open container doesn't matter - it's only a non-criminal moving traffic violation (a traffic ticket, not a crime). However, if there is an open container in a car, it will certainly lead the officer to investigate further, possibly even starting a DUI investigation if it's the driver who has the open container.

Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward. Call today to discuss your case.