The District of Columbia, like all 50 states and territories in the United States, set the legal drinking age of 21. Before the age of 21, you can drive, vote, buy a lottery ticket, and even join the military but you cannot legally drink alcohol. However, that does not stop college students and other minors from trying. In the District of Columbia, there are two primary crimes associated with underage drinking:
(1) misrepresentation of age (Possession of a fake ID) and (2) contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
In the unfortunate event that underage drinking gets you into legal trouble, here’s what you need to know:
1. What are my chances of being convicted?
To be convicted for Misrepresentation of Age in the District, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are under 21 and did or attempted to misrepresent yourself with fraudulent identification and in doing so, you attempted to or did purchase, possess or drink alcohol, or you attempted to gain access to an establishment that had an on-premises retailer’s license, an arena C/X license or a temporary license.
To be convicted for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor (relating to alcohol or drugs) in Washington, D.C., the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you permitted a minor to possess or consume alcohol or a controlled substance. The government must also prove that you were over 18 and at least 4 years older than the minor. Many times these arrests involve older friends, parents and at times even teachers. Any arrest is serious and can be highly embarrassing as they tend to receive local media attention as seen in this recent Washington Post article.
These are relatively easy elements for the government to prove considering most people are caught in the act. Therefore, the outcome of your case is largely dependent on how many times you have been in trouble for the same crime.
2. If convicted, will I go to jail and/or have to pay a fine?
If you are convicted for Misrepresentation of Age or Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, there is a possibility that you could go to jail and/or have to pay a fine.
For first time Misrepresentation of Age offenders, you face a criminal misdemeanor conviction and a sentence up to a $300.00 fine and the suspension of your driving privileges in Washington, D.C. for 90 consecutive days. This penalty increases on any additional arrests related to Misrepresentation of Age. For first time Contributing to the Delinquency of Minors offenders, the penalties are up to 6 months in jail and/or $1000 in fines. If you are facing a 2nd or 3rd offense you are facing possible felony charges and lengthy jail sentences.
3. If convicted, will I lose my driver’s license?
Misrepresentation of Age Conviction—yes, unfortunately your license can be suspended from 90 consecutive days up to 1 year, depending on whether it’s a first offense or not. However, a Washington, D.C. attorney can assist you in reinstating your license once your suspension period has ended.
Contribution to the Delinquency of a Minor—Generally, No.
4. If I am arrested for having a Fake ID (Misrepresentation of Age) will the government offer me diversion, and if so, is it better to accept diversion than to go to trial?
For many first offenders, the government is more willing to offer you a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA). A DPA allows the government to essentially punish you for the crime without a conviction going on your record. For underage drinking offenses, the government will usually offer that if you perform 16 hours of community service hours and pay a fine, it will dismiss the charge upon completion. This deal has many advantages for those facing underage drinking charges. Whether or not you should take this deal, however, would depend in large part on the facts of your case. In order to know whether you accept any deal you must consult with a District of Columbia Criminal defense attorney. In addition, a skilled attorney can assist you in selecting a community service program that will work around your lifestyle and schedule.
5. Can I get my record sealed?
First time Misrepresentation of Age Offenders, who are not convicted, are eligible to have their arrest record sealed 6 months after their case is dismissed. Unfortunately, those who are arrested for Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, and are not convicted, must wait 2 years instead of 6 months, unless filing for Actual Innocence. In the unfortunate event that you are convicted of either offense, the waiting period is substantially longer—8 years.
When faced with an arrest for charges related to Misrepresentation of Age or Contribution to the Delinquency of a Minor, it is essential that you hire an experienced Washington D.C. criminal defense attorney who will answer any questions you undoubtedly have. At Scrofano Law PC, you will find you knowledgeable attorneys who will provide you answers for all of your questions and concerns. We understand how stressful any arrest can be and as a result we pride ourselves in making our attorneys available for consults whenever needed.
If you or a loved one have been arrested for Misrepresentation of Age or Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor, call Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175 and ask for attorney Christopher J. Mutimer.