Washington law says it’s a crime for a person under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol. The offense is charged as a gross misdemeanor and can lead to a jail term of up to one year. Please contact a skilled criminal defense attorney now if you or a loved one is being charged with any type of alcohol-related offense, including driving under the influence (DUI) or aggravated DUI.

What is Washington’s Law on Underage Drinking?

RCW 66.44.270(2)(a) is the Washington statute that sets forth the crime of underage drinking. According to this law, you commit a crime if you:

  1. Are under the age of 21, and
  2. Either possess, consume, or otherwise acquire any liquor.

Note that “possession” under the law means both “actual” and “constructive” possession.

You have “actual” possession of alcohol when you hold it or have immediate access to it (for example, when you have alcohol in a backpack that you’re carrying).

You have “constructive” possession of alcohol when you don’t have immediate access to it, but otherwise have control of it, or the right to control it (for example, when you store alcohol in a bedroom closet).

What are the Penalties?

Drinking or possessing alcohol when under the age of 21 is a gross misdemeanor under Washington law. The crime is punishable by:

  • Custody in county jail for up to one year, and/or
  • A fine of up to $5,000.

People convicted of this offense may also be placed on probation and required to perform community service hours.

Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?

Yes. You have the right to challenge an underage drinking charge with a legal defense. A solid defense is to show that you were actually of legal drinking age at the time of your arrest. There are times where an alleged offender does not have a valid ID or driver’s license at the time of an underage drinking arrest. If this is the case, you can usually get a charge dropped by supplying an ID or license after your arrest.

Your criminal defense attorney can also try to contest a charge by showing that the police somehow violated your rights, maybe by:

  • Arresting you without probable cause, or
  • Conducting an unlawful search and seizure.

If either of the above, then your Washington defense lawyer can likely persuade a judge to reduce your charges or drop them altogether.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge an underage drinking charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on various misdemeanor charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers also have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!

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