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  • Minors in Possession

    Written on January 14, 2014

    College is a great time, and there is no denying that drinking and partying are commonly associated with the college lifestyle. There is also a great reason why: because most people in college take that time to experiment with things they haven’t tried before, and alcohol is no exception. The only problem with this is that the average age of a college student is below the age of twenty-one, which is the legal drinking age here in Georgia.

    Imagine a college party: beautiful women, beer pong, loud music, everything people in their twenties still enjoy. But what if this music is too loud, or perhaps two drunken fraternity boys get in a fight, and as a result the police get called. What happens to the people there drinking underage? They thought they were safe at this house party, but the law is now confronting them, so they run. The officers manage to catch up to a few of them and smell the alcohol on their breath, see their glazed eyes and hear their slurred speech.

    This is what happened to a young man in Fulton County just a few years ago. Officers responded to a fight and found Mr. Hanson walking down the street. They reported his eyes were glazed, his speech was slurred and he admitted to drinking, even though he was under the age of twenty-one at the time. All of these factors led officers to believe Hanson was in violation of the law, O.C.G.A. § 3-3-23. For those who don’t have every law memorized, that particular section states “… No person under 21 years of age shall purchase, attempt to purchase, or knowingly possess any alcoholic beverage…” This means that no person under the age of twenty-one can possess alcohol. Strangely, this case implies that having consumed alcohol is the same as being in possession of it. [1]

    O.C.G.A § 3-3-23 goes on to explain that people under the age of twenty-one shall not purchase alcohol, have alcohol purchased for them, or use false identification to obtain alcohol in any way. And it goes on to explain that there are two ways that a person under the age of twenty-one can legally possess alcohol. One such way is if it is during a religious ceremony; the other being if they are medically prescribed alcohol in some way.

    Hanson’s conviction was upheld, so it is still illegal in the state of Georgia to possess or consume alcohol under the age of twenty-one. [2] Although there are exceptions to the rule, do not assume that means it is ok to drink underage. Please continue to exercise caution, obey the laws and be safe.

    However, if you do find yourself in a situation where you have consumed or possessed alcohol as a minor, and you get caught, there are a few things you should know. You have the constitutional right to remain silent. You should exercise this right: it is not rude to decline to answer a police officer’s questions. Also, if you are asked to submit to an alcohol breathalyzer test, you also have the right to refuse this, and you should. Police are trained to detect intoxication and you are likely going to jail anyway, so do not give them any more evidence than they already have. Your friends or family can bond you out of jail, and you should immediately seek the counsel of an attorney. Generally, unless some other charges are involved, you will be released by the next day. Remember your rights and do not be afraid to exercise them.

    [1]Hanson v. State, 275 GA. 470 (2002)

    [2] Id. @ pg 474

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