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The minimum age to purchase or consume alcohol in South Carolina is 21, and the state takes a tough stance against any underage person accused of an alcohol-related violation. When you’re this young with your whole life ahead of you, it’s important to consider what an alcohol violation on your legal record could mean. If you’re already facing charges, you need to understand the potential penalties and then secure your legal defense as soon as possible.

Possession, Consumption, or Purchase of Alcohol Under the Age of 21

You can face charges of knowingly possessing alcohol even if you never consume it. For example, assume that a friend had an unopened case of beer in your car. Should a police officer stop you for another reason, he or she can issue a citation for alcohol possession even when you argue that it isn’t yours.

Underage consumption of alcohol is also illegal. If a police officer spots you acting intoxicated out in public, you will need to take a Breathalyzer test to determine whether you have consumed alcohol and how much you drank.

Minors and young adults ages 18, 19, or 20 cannot legally purchase alcohol. Anyone who sells it to you without checking valid identification is also guilty of breaking South Carolina’s underage drinking laws.

The penalty for a conviction of any of these underage alcohol-related laws is a fine of $100 to $200, up to 30 days in jail, and loss of your driving privileges. You would also need to go through an alcohol safety training class. Below are exceptions to these laws that might apply in your situation:

  • You may consume alcohol in religious ceremonies if legally purchased by an older adult.
  • You may consume alcohol at home with your parents.
  • If you’re 18 to 20 years old, you can purchase alcohol under the direction of law enforcement to test liquor stores for violations.
  • You can move closed alcohol containers for employment purposes.
  • You can serve alcohol if you work as a server and are between 18 and 20 years old. However, you cannot work as a bartender.

Presenting a Fake ID

You can face charges for misrepresenting your age by presenting an ID that isn’t yours or by verbally claiming to be older than you really are. Whether you were successful in obtaining alcohol doesn’t matter when charged with misrepresentation.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Operating a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol is a serious charge for anyone, but it can have an even greater impact when you’re underage. For starters, you cannot have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) greater than .02 whereas the BAC is .08 for people over age 21. Keep in mind that some people can reach a .02 BAC with just one drink. You face DUI charges as an adult if your Breathalyzer test returns a BAC greater than .08.

Even a first offense with a .02 BAC results in the loss of your driver’s license for three months. That increases to six months if you refuse to submit to a Breathalyzer test.

Attorney Sara A. Turner regularly represents college students facing criminal charges in South Carolina. Please contact her office today at 843-277-2431 to schedule your initial consultation.


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