Punishment for Underage Drinking [A Parent’s Resource]

One of the most common misdemeanors in the United States is underage drinking. It’s not rare to find kids as young as 13 in possession of alcohol and under the influence.

To this effect, there are several punishments for underage drinking (which I’ll tell you about later). Let’s start with some facts about underage drinking in the USA.

These facts can vary in other countries as there are legal and cultural differences, but they tend to track, for the most part, in countries that are similar to America.

Facts About Underage Drinking in the USA

Facts About Underage Drinking
Here are some surprising facts about underage drinking.

You may or may not know this already but alcohol is the most commonly used substance among teens in the USA. 

Another fact is that excessive drinking is responsible for approximately 4000 deaths of people under 21 every year. That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? 

In the year 2010, underage drinking cost the US $24 billion. A Youth Risk behavior survey of high school students in 2019 showed that:

  • 29% of the students drank alcohol. 
  • 14% binge drank (not once, not twice)
  • 17% carpooled with drunk drivers
  • 5% of the students who own cars drove after drinking alcohol 

There was a time when underage drinking was more common among male students, but it’s something that affects males and females at an increasing rate.

Let’s get to some more informative facts. 

Underage Drinking is Connected to Adult Drinking 

Various studies show that teens whose parents or guardians drink are more likely to engage in underage drinking. 

An increase in adult drinking directly or indirectly influences underage drinking. Adolescents whose parents or family members don’t drink are less likely to drink compared to others. 

Many parents leave alcohol lying around their homes. Some get passed out on the couch after drinking and their kids get tempted to take a sip. 

Habits like that aren’t encouraged because they can make minors desire alcohol. 

Underage Drinking has a Damaging Effect on The Teen

Many parents don’t know that the side effects of underage drinking are way beyond hangovers. Some just wave it off and say “oh don’t worry, he’ll be fine”. 

Well here’s a shocker. There are severe consequences of underage drinking. Some of these include: 

  • A disorder in their growth or sexual development 
  • Significantly lower grades
  • Legal problems leading to a criminal record
  • Unwanted or planned sexual activity 
  • Increased risk of homicide and suicide
  • Depression 
  • Alcohol dependence 
  • Self-harm 

Underage Drinking is Preventable

As a parent, teaching your kids the facts about underage drinking will enlighten them to the dangers of it. You should also play a part by keeping alcohol away from them at home. 

Don’t drink in the presence of your teens. Let your kids know the penalty for underage drinking. 

You can also chip in the underage drinking fine in your state. Make sure you know the friends your kids hang out with. 

What’s a Good Punishment for Underage Drinking?

Good Punishment for Underage Drinking

A good punishment for underage drinking is taking away your child’s privileges. Confiscating a teen’s gadget, cell phone, or video games can be an effective punishment. Grounding them for a while isn’t necessarily a bad idea, either, and it’s surely one of the most common punishments. However, there’s more to consider when it comes to this.

Read more about punishments for teenagers.

Aside from the state’s penalty for underage drinking, many parents wonder what kind of punishment would be effective for their kids. 

Well, here are a few things you can do if you catch your teenagers drinking…

Take Away Their Privileges 

You can get your teens to listen to you when you take away their privileges. They’ll have plenty of time to reflect on their actions when they’re not glued to a screen

You can also cut their allowance in half. Not being able to spend money as usual will make them listen. 

Ground Them 

This is an old but gold method. Grounding works well, especially when they don’t have access to their gadgets too. No social media, no video games, nothing at all. 

They’ll definitely think twice about taking alcohol next time. 

Let Them Face the Consequences 

Let your teen face every consequence that comes from drinking. If he got his license suspended, then he should use public transport to school (no free rides). 

Make your teen do extra chores as compensation for the fine you had to pay. 

Enlighten your teens by making them research the consequences of underage drinking and presenting it to the family. Let your teen know that your trust is broken and they’ll have to earn it again. 

What’s The Penalty for Underage Drinking in America?

Penalty for Underage Drinking

The penalty for underage drinking in America varies from state to state but it typically involves an underage drinking fine, community service hours, and a revocation of the offender’s license. 

In America, drinking is illegal for anyone under the age of 21. To this effect, many states have set down slightly different penalties for underage drinkers. 

You don’t have to drink alcohol to be disciplined, the mere possession of it is a crime. You’ll be punished if you’re caught trying to buy alcohol even before drinking it. 

The penalty for underage drinking in most states includes the following: 

  • An underage drinking fine (it can be as much as $1000 for regular offenders). 
  • Community service hours (can be up to 40 hours)
  • A license suspension which ranges from 30 days to a year. 
  • Enrollment in alcohol education programs 

In Maine, a person under 21 who purchases or drinks alcohol pays a fine of $200-$400. That’s very mild compared to some other states.

In Utah, an underage drinker will receive a misdemeanor and pay up to $1000 in fines. The offender’s license may also be suspended for a year (even as a first time offender). 

That’s not all of it. If the offender provided a fake ID to buy alcohol, the penalty may include a fine of $2500 and up to 6 months jail term. Utah is one of the strictest states regarding underage drinking laws. 

Can You Get Arrested for Underage Drinking?

Yes, you can get arrested for underage drinking. It’s even more likely if you were caught using a fake ID to purchase alcohol. Drunk driving will also warrant an arrest and a huge fine. 

You don’t have to be caught drinking alcohol before you can get arrested. Minors in possession of alcohol can be arrested in most states.

In fact, the purchase, possession, and consumption of alcohol are all offenses that can get a minor arrested. 

First time offenders might not face jail time but regular offenders can face up to 180 days of jail time. 

Is Underage Drinking a Misdemeanor?

Yes, underage drinking is a misdemeanor in most states. The penalty for this misdemeanor varies by state though. 

In most states, the purchase, possession, and consumption of alcohol by minors are all misdemeanors. And they’ll attract varying degrees of punishment. 

Final Thoughts On Punishments for Underage Drinking

Punishments for Underage Drinking
Punishments for underage drinking: Are they fair?

Most alcohol addicts started at a young age, especially in high school. Always make sure your teens are aware of the dangers of underage drinking and its effect on their health.

Underage drinking is a very serious social problem and should be treated as such. High-schoolers in particular should be taught that there are serious punishments for underage drinking.

More helpful articles about parenting:

Mat Woods

Author Information

Mat Woods is the lead writer at TeenWire.org. He works tirelessly alongside the rest of the team to create useful, well-researched, trustworthy articles to help parents and their teens.