POSSESSION

Ohio Underage Drinking Laws and Penalties

If you are under 18 and in possession of alcohol, you are facing up to a $250 fine and and/or up to 30 days in jail. If you are 18-21 the fine may be up to $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail. Additionally, you could be facing a license suspension if the violation happened in a motor vehicle.

Exceptions:

There are explicit exceptions to this rule:

  1. If you are in the presence of a parent or guardian and have their consent
  2. If you are in the presence of a legal aged spouse
  3. If the possession is for specific religious, educational, or medical purposes

Alternatives to the statutory penalties:

If this is your first offense, many jurisdictions offer what is known as a “Diversion” program. This means, you enter a “guilty” plea to the offense on the record but the judge does not accept the plea. Instead, you are required to attend classes, do community service, or whatever the court feels is appropriate. Once your diversion assignment is completed, the charge is dismissed. This avoids any criminal conviction on your record. However, if you fail to complete the terms of your diversion, the judge accepts the guilty plea and you are convicted of the offense.

PURCHASE

IF you are under 18 and purchase alcohol, you are subject to a fine of up to $250 and/or up to 30 days in jail. If you are between 18 and 21 and purchase alcohol you can be fined up to $1000 and/or up to 180 days in jail.

Exceptions:

The only exception to this rule is if you are purchasing the alcohol for law enforcement purposes. (I.E. Confidential Informant).

Alternatives to the statutory penalties:

If this is your first offense, many jurisdictions offer what is known as a “Diversion” program. This means, you enter a “guilty” plea to the offense on the record but the judge does not accept the plea. Instead, you are required to attend classes, do community service, or whatever the court feels is appropriate. Once your diversion assignment is completed, the charge is dismissed. This avoids any criminal conviction on your record. However, if you fail to complete the terms of your diversion, the judge accepts the guilty plea and you are convicted of the offense.

FURNISHING ALCOHOL TO A MINOR

If you buy, sell, or furnish alcohol while having reason to know that the recipient is a minor, then you could face furnishing alcohol to a minor charges. Along the same lines, it is illegal to rent a hotel room, or other accommodation- like a cabin, air b&b, or campsite knowing that a minor will be using that facility to consume alcohol.

Penalties for furnishing alcohol to a minor is up to a $1000 fine and up to six months in jail.

Exceptions to the rule:

There are explicit exceptions to this rule:

  1. If you are a parent or guardian and give your consent and are in the presence of the minor
  2. If you are a legal aged spouse and in the presence of the minor
  3. If the furnishing is for specific religious, educational, or medical purposes

“COOL PARENTS” HOSTING PARTIES FOR UNDER AGE CHILDREN & ALLOWING ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

This is ill advised. As a parent, you cannot give alcohol to anyone underage unless he or she is your child or you are his or her legal guardian. EVEN IF THE PARENTS OF THE OTHER CHILDREN GAVE YOU PERMISSION. Only a parent or guardian can provide alcohol to a minor and the consumption has to be in their presence. You also cannot allow a person who is under age to remain on your property or in your home if they are consuming or if they possess alcohol. If the other children’s parents are not at the party, you can be charged with furnishing alcohol to minors. This could result in a fine of up to $1000 and up to six months in jail.

Additional Liability

If you do allow minors to consume alcohol at a party at your house and the minor subsequently gets into an accident and hurts someone or hurts themselves, the parents of that child can sue you and you could be found liable for any damages caused by the child’s actions.

BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT LIMIT FOR MINORS DRIVING

While the “legal limit” for adults is .08, this is not true for minors. In Ohio, the legal limit for a minor’s blood alcohol content is .02. If you are a minor and stopped by a police officer and the police officer reasonably suspects you are over the .02 limit, you are subject to an OVI or DUI.

A minor DUI or a “baby DUI” is when the minor’s BAC is between the .02 and .08 limit. This is treated as a misdemeanor of the 4th degree. If you are charged with an underage OVI you are facing up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $250.

The difference between an Adult and a Minor OVI

An OVI for an adult over the .08 limit is a misdemeanor of the first degree. It is punishable by a fine up to $1075 and up to 6 months in jail. It results in 6 points on your driver’s license and up to a five year license suspension.

An Underage OVI results in 4 points on your license and a license suspension.

A minor over the .08 limit

If you are a minor and you test over the .08 limit, the penalties are more parallel to the adult OVI charge. If it is your first OVI, you will be facing ten days up to one year in jail, a fine of $500 to $1000, 6 points on your license, a fine of $500 up to $1000, and a license suspension of six months up to three years.

If this is your second OVI, then you could be facing up to a year in jail, up to a $1500 fine, and a suspension of up to five years.

Additional charges that can come with an Under Age OVI

In addition to being cited for the Under Age OVI, the police officer is likely to be able to cite you with additional offenses. For example, if you rolled through a stop sign or were swerving into another lane, you could be cited with the traffic offense. If you have any open bottles of alcohol in your vehicle, you could be subject to an open container citation. If you used a fake ID to purchase the alcohol and the police officer seizes it, you could be subject to a prohibited acts charge. If you try to show the police officer the fake ID and tell him that you are over 21, you could face falsification charges.

Refusal of Chemical Test:

When you sign up for your driver’s license, you agree to submit to a chemical test if you ever get pulled over. This is commonly referred to as “implied consent” in Ohio. However, you do not have to take the chemical test or do the field sobriety tests if you get pulled over. There are negative consequences for refusal, but it may be better in the long run if you refuse.

If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, your license will be automatically placed under an Administrative license suspension. There is a mandatory 30 day “hard suspension” on refusal charges. This means that a judge cannot grant you driving privileges (even for work or school) until 30 days after you were cited.

There is no license suspension or consequences for refusing the field sobriety tests.

Purpose of Field Sobriety Tests:

The purpose of field sobriety tests is to test your ability to follow directions, listen to the police officers instructions and to divide your attention. The officers are trained to look for “clues” of impairment and keep note of the amount of clues they see in each subject. The tests are not “pass/fail.” However, the clues that the officers observe to lead the officer to conclude whether or not you are impaired.

The reason behind these tests is the notion that driving is a divided attention task. You need to be aware of what is going on in front of you, behind you, on either side of you, in front of you, look for stop signs, stop lights, change the radio, turn the heat down, and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Alcohol delays the brain’s ability to divide attention and slows reaction time. This is obviously very dangerous if you are driving a car.

However, the standard field sobriety tests are not 100% accurate. If you are too old, or overweight, or have had prior brain injuries, or knee, back, ankle, foot or hip injuries, or if you have a head cold, or if you have inner ear problems or if there is ice on the ground, or if it is cold outside, or if the ground is not level— All of these issues could affect the validity of the field sobriety test.

Further, in most jurisdictions, all of these test are on film. The police officers have body cameras and the cruisers have cameras. These field sobriety tests give the police officer more and more evidence that they will argue exemplifies your impairment. If you bobble when you are walking on the line, if you can’t stand on one leg without putting your other foot down, if you raise your hands too high, or if you start or stop a test before you are instructed to, the officer will document this as a sign of impairment. Then, when the prosecutor gets the cruiser video, the prosecutor can see you trying to attempt these tests. And, if the case gets to a trial, the judge or jury will be able to see you try to perform the tests.

If you do not feel comfortable doing the tests, you can politely tell the officer that you do not wish to participate. If he or she suspects that you are under the influence of alcohol, he or she will likely at that point place you under arrest and take you to the police station and offer you the breath test.