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Zoey_ JD
Zoey_ JD, JustAnswer Criminal Law Mentor
Category: Criminal Law
Satisfied Customers: 27461
Experience:  Admitted to NYS Criminal defense bar in 1989. Extensive arraignment, hearing, trial experience.
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I was arrested and charged with illicit consumption of alcohol

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I was arrested and charged with illicit consumption of alcohol by a minor about one month ago and the court date is tomorrow. I had a couple drinks and tried to get into a bar, I was refused and as I walked out a police officer cuffed me and took me to their station. I have a clean record (not even traffic violation etc) and am wondering what I should do. They didn't take a BAC level, and my friends think I should deny the fact that I was drunk. However, I am most concerned about if my permanent record will be effected. Thank you.
Hi Jacustomer,

In Illinois, consumption of alcohol by a minor would be a Class C misdemeanor. It's got a maximum jail penalty of 30 days and/or a fine of up to $500. Additionally, it will give you a criminal record.

Though it's certaiinly in your favor that your BAC wasn't taken, it is not a foregone conclusion that you couldn't be convicted of this offense. If you wanted to take the case to trial and risk the 30-day penalty, the officer would be able to establish that he caught you walking out of the bar, and you can bet the ranch that he will also say that you smelled of alcohol, that your eyes were read, that you were a bit unsteady on your feet and so on. Intoxication is something that the law does not require an expert or scientific corroboration for. It's well established that just about everyone can tell someone who's been drinking when they see him.

But your friends are right in that of course you must go in and deny your guilt. When you are arraigned on the charge, pleading NOT GUILTY is the only way that you can keep all of your rights open until you get counseled by an attorney and learn all of your choices. Anything else you plead will result in a conviction and close doors.

In most instances a first arrest of this type will result in an offer of a diversion dispostion. That is where you perform community service, pay fines, attend anti-drinking classes or counseling and are supervised by probation. You can expect random alcohol testing during the period of supervision, but when you finish all of your sentence the case will be dismissed so that you do not carry a conviction on your record.

Outside of an outright dismissal, which I don't see grounds for in your fact pattern, the diversion disposition would be the best possible outcome. It's not a given that you will be offered this option. You can try to negotiate for something like that with the prosecutor, but your best option would be to show up with a lawyer and let him work out the disposition, or if you want to fight the case, let him handle your defense.

If you don't have money to retain counsel, you can plead not guilty and ask for a public defender to be appointed to you, but in some jurisdication, when the crime is this low level and worth so litle jail time, you may not get one.

So what you could do would be to show up on your court date, plead not guilty, find out what the state is willing to do for you to dispose of the case and, if you like it and you know it will keep your record clean, forego the attorney. If, on the other hand, they are making you a misdemeanor offer, then you could ask for a public defender or ask for an adjournment for you to return to court with private counsel
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for the speedy reply. I plan on going in to the court by myself, as I don't have the necessary funds to pay for a lawyer. I plan on taking your advice and pleading non-guilty too....However, I'm curious if I will need any evidence or how I should proceed to explain my position. I'm just a bit nervous as I have no experience with courts or laws, and I feel that the law enforcement or judge might take advantage of this.

Hi Cameron,

This is why you should ask for a public defender if you can get one.

This is criminal court. You don't tell your story to the judge like you do on some television shows. You have a 5th Amendment right against self incrimination and anything you say to anyone on earth other than your lawyer can be used against you. The second you say that you had a couple of drinks earlier but none at the bar, you might as well plead guilty because you've made a hurtful admission.

It is not up to you to prove yourself not guilty. You start off innocent until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is entirely up to the state to prove your guilt. You can never go wrong by saying too little in court. What you don't say can't hurt you. What you do can convict you.

When you plead not guilty ask the judge to appoint you a public defender. Your case has a jail penalty so they should allow you one and get things explained to you.

While I know that you don't want to tell your folks, I'm sure they would likely appreciate knowing about this in time to get you a lawyer if necessary than to find out down the road after paying for your education that you couldn't use it because of an offense on your record. This matter can likely be disposed of quickly in something that won't jam you up personally and professionally, but you generally need a lawyer to see to that if you aren't system-wise.

So plead not guilty, ask for a public defender, and don't plead no contest or guilty to anything without counsel, if you know it will give you a record.
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