Under Utah Code 32B-4-403, selling, offering for sale, or otherwise providing or furnishing alcohol to a person under the age of 21 in Utah is a criminal offense that can carry serious penalties.
If you are facing criminal prosecution for providing alcohol to a minor in Ogden, having an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer can make a huge difference to the potential success of your case. Contact us today to see how we can help you.
Enforcement of Utah Code 32B-4-403 by Police
Cases involving selling or furnishing alcohol to a minor in violation of 32B-4-403 often involve coordinated efforts by police enforcement. The police often do not wait to receive a report of a violation, but will enlist the cooperation of minors who are willing to try to purchase alcohol. Police will send these minors to restaurants or convenience stores, instructing them to try to purchase beer or other alcoholic products.
Many times, these efforts by police enforcement seem coincide with the busiest times for the restaurant or convenience store. Often, the server or clerk has good intentions and attempts to properly check the customer’s ID. But even a momentary distraction might cause the server or clerk to make a mistake in checking the ID or to simply forget to ask to see the ID.
In the case that the restaurant server or store clerk makes a mistake and sells, offers to sell, or otherwise furnishes alcohol to the minor, the police can enter the establishment and issue a citation to the server or clerk. In this situation police have the authority to make an arrest, but will often issue a citation with instructions for contacting the court and scheduling a court date.
Although the use of minors to catch unsuspecting servers and clerks may seem like entrapment, the police are generally trained to avoid tactics and conduct that would come to the level required to build an affirmative entrapment defense.
Providing Alcohol to a Minor – Elements of a Criminal Charge
To support a criminal charge, Utah law requires evidence that the defendant sold, offered to sell, or, in another way, furnished or provided alcohol to a minor. For purposes of this offense, a minor is any person under the age of 21 years. But prosecution for this offense does not require evidence that the defendant had actual knowledge that the minor was under the age of 21. Instead, the statute requires only evidence that the defendant acted recklessly or with simple negligence in failing to determine whether the person receiving the alcohol was a minor.
The standard of simple negligence does not require proof that it was the intent of the defendant to provide alcohol to a person under the age of 21, or that they knew the person was under the age of 21, or that they even consciously disregarded a substantial risk that the person was under the age of 21. To show simple negligence, a prosecutor must assemble evidence showing that the defendant did not exercise a reasonable degree of care in determining (or failing to determine) the minor’s true age.
In many cases, a prosecutor will argue that the restaurant server or store clerk must request and check the customer’s official state-issued identification or driver license before serving or selling an alcoholic product. It is likely that if no ID is requested, or a mistake is made in reading the ID, that negligence will be found. In the case that the server or clerk was presented with a fake ID (assuming that it is a reasonably well-made fake), then the server or clerk has exercised reasonable care and should not be found negligent.
Penalties for Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor in Ogden
The level of offense for furnishing or selling alcohol to a minor depends on the defendant’s intent (mens rea). In most criminal prosecutions for providing alcohol to a minor, the prosecutor is only able prove that the defendant acted with simple negligence or recklessly in determining the age of the minor. If that is all that can be proven, the charge is filed as a class B misdemeanor, which carries the potential of up to 180 days in jail.
However, if a prosecutor is able to prove that the defendant had actual knowledge that the recipient of the alcohol was a minor under 21 years of age, then the charge can be filed as a class A misdemeanor. The maximum jail term for a class A misdemeanor is 365 days.
In addition to the direct legal consequences of a conviction, many restaurants and stores maintain policies under which employment can be terminated for selling alcohol, even by mistake, to a minor.
Exceptions under Utah Code 32B-4-403
Under Utah law, there are a limited number of exceptions for criminal liability in providing alcohol to a minor. These exceptions center on alcohol that is provided for medicinal reasons. To meet this exception, the alcoholic product must be given to the minor by the minor’s parent or guardian, or by the minor’s health care practitioner (doctor, nurse practitioner, etc.)
Finding a Defense Attorney for Criminal Charges in Ogden
When facing prosecution for providing alcohol to a minor or other criminal charges in Ogden or elsewhere in Utah, it is important that you have a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side. We are ready to help. To schedule an initial consultation, contact us now.