Orlando is home to one of the state's largest college campuses, the University of Central Florida. Tailgating, fraternity parties, and other sporting events lead to underage drinking. And with underage drinking comes enforcement of Florida's drinking laws, fake ID laws, and enforcement of disorderly intoxication statutes.
As alcohol is the most commonly abused drug among young people in America, underage drinking is a serious public health issue that impacts homes, communities, schools and colleges. As such, the state of Florida has undertaken more stringent approaches to tackling this epidemic.
In 2007, underage drinking cost the Sunshine State $4.5 billion in medical costs, pain and suffering, and property damage. Earlier in the year, a number of retailers were cited for sale of alcohol to minors. Last month, USF college students were arrested for underage possession of alcohol at a pre-game festivity.
New Underage Drinking Penalties
In recognizing the widespread problem of underage consumption of alcohol and the increased risks for young people driving drunk, the Florida legislature has instituted stiffer punishments for violation of underage drinking laws. In Florida House Bill 33, which became law in July 2010, the legislators unanimously increased criminal penalties for those who facilitate or partake in underage alcohol consumption.
Additionally, not only could you have a criminal conviction on your record, you will lose your driver's license if you are convicted of possessing alcohol and are under the age of 18.
With a goal of making alcohol less accessible to minors, the newly enacted law makes it a second-degree misdemeanor to possess, consume or offer alcohol to anyone under 21. Repeated offenses increase the criminal penalties. While the law has some exceptions, such as wine tasting for educational purposes, further consequences of underage drinking include loss of driving privileges, jail time and fines.
Parents are not excluded from Florida's new "Zero Tolerance" campaign on the issue. Parents can be held civilly liable for damages and even court costs for any damages related to their child's underage drinking. Also, parents can be found criminally responsible if they hold house parties or facilitate alcohol consumption.
In the United States, nearly 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die as a result of underage drinking each year. Of this number, almost 2,000 deaths occur as a result of motor vehicle accidents. While media campaigns and community-based programs may be part of the solution, stiffer laws and consistent enforcement may be the key to cracking down on this growing problem.
With the new changes in law, cases of underage drinking and related charges of disorderly conduct, public drunkenness and even driving under the influence, may rise. For those cases, a teen and his or her family will need the help of a reputable and knowledgeable Florida criminal defense attorney in order to protect their rights, property and privileges.