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Underage drinking could cause major issues for your teen

On behalf of Starbranch Law posted in blog on Monday, November 27, 2017.

The teenage years are often a time of social growth, self-discovery and mistakes. Young adults grow and mature as they make poor decisions and learn from the consequences of their actions. Usually, those mistakes involve consequences like a headache from dehydration, failing a test due to lack of study or getting grounded for breaking curfew. Sadly, for some teens, youthful indiscretions can have longer-lasting consequences.

When law enforcement gets involved, an otherwise minor mistake could haunt your teen for years to come. It’s also a mistake for you, as a parent, to brush off alcohol-related offenses your child faces a minor concern. In reality, your child could face criminal penalties and a record that could impact everything from college admissions to future job prospects.

New Hampshire has strict rules for minors and alcohol

State law is very clear about there being zero tolerance for anyone under the age of 21 who gets caught in possession of alcohol or under its influence. There are legal exceptions for minors who are at least 18 years of age who work in a restaurant or hospitality job that involves serving alcohol. With the exception of work-related possession, any minor caught with a beer in hand or alcohol in one’s bloodstream could face criminal penalties.

A first time offender will face a fine of at least $300, while second and subsequent offenses result in a fine of $600 or more. These fines are mandatory minimums, and the courts may not waive or suspend any portion of the minimum amount for the fine. Minors caught in possession of alcohol will also forfeit that alcohol for the courts to dispose of. In cases where seized alcohol later gets sold, the county treasury will receive any proceeds from the sale.

The long-term impact of a youthful conviction

You may hope that the courts will be lenient in their treatment of your teen, but many times, that is not the case. The whole point of prosecuting and assigning a penalty to crimes involving minors in possession of alcohol is to deter teens from drinking. A slap on the wrist will do little to deter your teen or any others from experimenting with alcohol.

Even if your child pleads guilty, the consequences of the offense could follow him or her for years. It could impact acceptance into college, whether or not your child maintains a scholarship or what kind of jobs he or she can get. While there may be options for sealing or expunging the conviction in the future, your child’s best hope comes from avoiding any kind of conviction or criminal record in the first place. You should treat any charges relating to possession of alcohol seriously, because the courts certainly will.

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Harry N. Starbranch
Harry Starbranch
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