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Selling Alcohol to a Minor in Florida

Sting Operations Are a Typical Scenario

Frequently in Duval in Clay counties, law enforcement agencies will conduct sting operations where they go into bars in plain clothes, and have an undercover underage patron order alcohol. Usually it is difficult to tell the person’s age by looking at them and they are on their cell phone when placing the order. The unsuspecting bartender takes the order, and does not check the person’s ID.

The bartender than serves the drink. The moment the drink is served, the patron leaves, and the law enforcement officer confronts the bartender. These sting operations are designed to make sure that local bars are complying with Florida law. After it is clear that the person is not 21 years old, the bartender is charged with selling alcohol to a minor under Florida Statute 562.11.

What Does the State Have to Prove to Convict You?

It is important to note that Florida jury instructions (or the elements that the State has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to achieve conviction) relating to Selling Alcohol to a Minor under 562.11, do not prescribe a sale, meaning the money does not have to exchange hands. Rather, the instructions state:

“the State must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

Give 1a or 1b as applicable.

  1. a. (Defendant) [sold] [gave] [served] [permitted service of] an alcoholic beverage to (name of person) on licensed premises.

b. (Defendant) permitted (name of person) to consume an alcoholic beverage on licensed premises.

  1. At the time, (name of person)was less than 21 years of age.

So, just like in the scenario above – the serving of an alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age is sufficient to be charged with a criminal offense under 562.11.

Furthermore, Florida Statute § 561.01(9) defines “Sold” as any transfer of an alcoholic beverage for a consideration, any gift of an alcoholic beverage in connection with, or as a part of, a transfer of property other than an alcoholic beverage for a consideration, or the serving of an alcoholic beverage by a club licensed under the Beverage Law.

For a first offense, the bartender will be charged with a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. The statute also provides for a possible driver license suspension upon conviction.

When an Employee Is a Minor

If the person is charged with serving of alcohol to a minor who is also an employee of the establishment, the charges becomes different and are more serious. That person could face a first degree misdemeanor charge, which is punishable by up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 fine.

What Are the Possible Defenses to This Charge?

If you are charge with Selling Alcohol to a Minor, your criminal defense attorney will evaluate your case for possible defenses. One of them could be that the person receiving the alcohol presented a fake id in order to convince the bartender that he or she was old enough to purchase alcohol, or that mistaking the minor for being older than they were was a mistake that any "prudent person" would have made.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Statute?

Yes. Florida Statute 562.11(4) specifically provides that if the alcohol is being served to a student who is at least 18 years of age, and the alcoholic beverage is delivered as part of the student's required curriculum at the college, along with other requirements.

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