A minor younger than 21 in West Virginia may not buy, possess, consume, or sell alcohol, with few exceptions (see below). (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19(a)(1).) Additionally, a minor may not buy, possess, consume, or sell any "non-intoxicating beer," which includes any brewed or fermented drink that contains between one half of one percent and twelve percent alcohol by volume. (W.Va. Code Section 11-16-3(5).) It is also illegal for a minor to knowingly provide false information about the minor's age (for example, by using a false ID or birth certificate) in order to obtain alcohol or non-intoxicating beer. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 61-8-27a.)
A violation of West Virginia’s minor in possession laws is misdemeanor. Penalties vary by violation.
Underage purchase, possession, sale, or consumption. Violations carry a fine of up to $500, up to 72 hours in jail (or a juvenile detention facility), or both (as decided by the judge). The judge may also order up to one year of probation in lieu of jail time for first offenses. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19(3)(a).)
Misrepresenting age. Violators will face a fine of up to $100, up to 72 hours in jail, or both. The judge may also order up to a year of probation in lieu of jail time for first offenses. (W.Va. Ann. Code Section 11-16-19(3)(b).)
Because a minor in possession of alcohol is a "jailable" offense, your son MUST appear on the court date on the violation. If he doesn't appear, a warrant may be issued for his arrest for failure to appear.
If your son is in college, it is in his best interest to seek the assistance of an attorney. If he can't afford an attorney, he can ask the judge to appoint him a public defender. The judge may or may not grant that request.
Your son should contact an attorney who specializes in criminal law in the jurisdiction in which he received the violation. Sometimes, an initial consultation is free or at a minimal charge. He can discuss the specific facts of the case, evaluate his options and decide how to proceed. It is possible that an attorney may be able to get the prosecutor to enter into a plea bargain to dismiss or reduce the charge, or get an agreement to get a recommendation of no jail.
The reason that it is important for your son to be represented by an attorney is because if he pleads guilty to the violation and is convicted, it could affect any financial aid that he may be receiving, it could affect his chances to get into graduate school and it may show up on any criminal history background check that an employer may do.
Below please find a link to the West Virginia Bar Association Lawyer Information Service. It provides free consultations at specific times.
Also, below please find a link to the West Virginia Lawyer Referral Page.
While the violation may not seem serious at first blush, a conviction may have long term consequences.
I hope you find this information useful.
My goal is to provide you with excellent service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back. I am happy to address follow-up questions. If you are satisfied with my answer, please rate it as "excellent" or in another positive manner. That is the only way that I can get credit for answering the question.
Thank you for your business!
***** I will also look up the fake ID statute and consequences. I will be back with you shortly with that information.