As people and communities throughout the Commonwealth prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year, the team at Oberhauser Law wanted to take some time to talk about common alcohol related charges and how you and your loved ones can avoid them during any festivities you may have planned for St. Patty’s Day.
The first step to avoiding legal trouble is knowing what the laws are so you don’t break them. Listed below are the most common alcohol related charges in Massachusetts that revelers often get in trouble for, and how police, prosecutors and the courts may behave in each situation.
Common Alcohol Related Charges:
Alcohol or Drug Related Driving Offenses
This St. Patrick’s Day, alcohol driving offenses are more likely to occur as people travel back from a party where alcohol was served. As police investigate a driver on suspicion of DUI, they may find evidence of alcohol and/or other drugs. This results in being charged by prosecutors for DUI and Possession -of opiates or other illicit drugs.
Drinking and Driving
Unfortunately, drinking and driving is still the most common charge among alcohol driving offenses. Police may stop you at a DUI checkpoint or spot and stop you for erratic driving behavior. You have the right to kindly refuse any field sobriety tests without legal consequence should you get pulled over for operating under the influence or OUI in Massachusetts.
Other alcohol driving offenses to be aware of include OUI with Child Endangerment. This is an aggravating factor that applies to drivers 21 and older who are charged with DUI with a passenger 14 years or younger in their vehicle. The punishment increases significantly upon a conviction for this crime.
Parade and party goers should also take note that most alcohol charges will also have the negative effect of increasing car insurance premiums.
MIP – Minors in Possession of Alcohol
MIP alcohol charges mean anyone under 21 can be charged with unlawful transport and/or possession of alcohol pursuant to M.G.L. c138 §34. MIP is a misdemeanor crime in MA that is punishable by a fine of $50 and a Driver’s License suspension of 90 days.
Police may be called out to a party for disturbing the peace and then decide to arrest all underage persons for MIP based on probable cause. However, to obtain a conviction for MIP, prosecutors must prove that you had direct, physical possession of alcohol. It is not enough that you were near or around alcoholic beverages.
Other alcohol related charges include open container laws in MA and minors attempting to purchase alcohol. A conviction for an underage purchase /attempt to purchase alcohol can result in a fine of up to $300 and a loss of license for 180 days.
Supplying Alcohol to Minors Charges
Supplying alcohol to minors is a very serious offense in Massachusetts. If convicted, you face up to a $2,000 fine and/or imprisonment of up to one year. However, parents and legal guardians shouldn’t get into trouble for serving alcohol to minors at home when it’s their own children.
Supplying alcohol to minors is also known as:
- Distributing Alcohol to Minors
- Furnishing Alcohol to Minors
- Providing Alcohol to Minors
- Serving Alcohol to Minors
- Buying Alcohol for Minors in MA
Distributing or furnishing alcohol to minors can fall under social host laws in Massachusetts. These laws set criminal and civil liabilities for adults who knowingly and carelessly supply alcoholic beverages to teenagers and underage adults on their premises.
Public Intoxication Charge
Most cities and towns in MA have local laws that prohibit public consumption of alcohol. Furthermore, police can lawfully arrest you for being drunk in public without a warrant.
A Public Intoxication charge is a summary violation that is typically charged on a ticket or citation containing the specific code violation and its fine. The ticket will also give you an option to contest the alcohol charge should you choose to fight it in a municipal court hearing. These hearings may be conducted at your city or town hall building.
Related Q&A: How long do alcohol related charges stay on a driving record?
The Massachusetts RMV will keep certain alcohol related charges such as an OUI (or DUI) on your driving record for at least ten years.
** If you need the services of an alcohol driving offenses lawyer, contact our law office now. We provide free consultations during which some of your legal questions can be answered. **
Now that you know where the legal pitfalls are, you can take adequate precautions so your plans to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day stay festive and positively memorable.