It might not sound like a big deal at first, but there are serious consequences in Nebraska for a minor in possession of alcohol.
As a result, you will need a lawyer with extensive experience defending criminal charges to help reduce the impact of this offense.
Where would you turn if your child or young adult faces a minor in possession of alcohol charge?
Nebraska criminal defense lawyer Thomas M. Petersen and his team at Petersen Criminal Defense Law understand the complexity of this situation and know how to help.
Tom has over 15 years of practice experience dedicated to protecting people’s rights in both state and federal courts. He will work for you and your child to help achieve a positive outcome.
What Is Nebraska’s Minor in Possession Law?
Nebraska Revised Statute 53-180.02 defines what it means to be a minor in possession of alcohol.
Under that provision, no person under 21 years of age can lawfully possess or have under their physical control any alcoholic liquor.
There are two exceptions to this general prohibition: a minor may possess and consume alcoholic liquor as a part of a bona fide religious rite or ceremony or within their permanent residence.
Nebraska passed other laws to prevent minors from possessing alcohol.
For example, section 53-180 prohibits any person—including a minor’s parents—from giving, furnishing, or selling alcoholic liquor to a minor or a mentally incompetent person.
Additionally, a minor may not misrepresent their age with the intent to procure alcoholic beverages, according to section 53-180.01.
What Are the Penalties for a Minor in Possession of Alcohol?
“Is a minor in possession a misdemeanor?” This is one of the first questions concerned parents want to discuss with us.
They’re afraid that a minor in possession of alcohol—first offense will ruin their child’s life.
The answer isn’t always straightforward. While a Nebraska minor in possession charge is a Class III misdemeanor, the punishment depends on the minor’s age and driver’s license status.
At the outset, a Class III misdemeanor is punishable with a jail term of no more than three months, a $500 fine, or both fine and imprisonment.
However, if your child is 18 or younger, they face additional consequences, particularly if they have prior convictions for being a minor in possession.
Nebraska Revised Statute 53-181 spells out the additional penalties your child may face if convicted of being a minor in possession. The penalties differ depending on whether your child has a driver’s license or driver’s permit.
Additional Sanctions If Your Child Has a Driver’s License or Permit
For a first offense, the court may impound your child’s driver’s permit or license for up to 30 days. Additionally, the court can require your child to attend an alcohol education class.
The court may impound your child’s license or permit for up to 90 days and require them to complete between 20 and 40 hours of community service after a second conviction.
For a third or subsequent offense, the court may impound your child’s license or permit for up to one year.
Additionally, the court can order your child to perform at least 60 hours of community service and submit to an alcohol assessment by a licensed counselor.
Additional Sanctions If Your Child Does Not Have a Driver’s License or Permit
The penalties vary slightly for a minor who does not yet hold a valid driver’s license or permit.
Instead of impounding your child’s license or permit, the court can prohibit a child who is eligible to obtain a license or permit from obtaining one for 30 days for the first offense, 90 days for the second offense, and 12 months for a third or subsequent offense.
Does “Minor in Possession” Stay on Your Record?
No one wants to be saddled with a criminal conviction forever.
Unfortunately, Nebraska law does not permit anyone to expunge a conviction. Notwithstanding, you may have an opportunity to seal an arrest or conviction for a minor in possession under Nebraska Revised Statute 29-3523.
Sealing a record is different from expunging a record. A court can expunge, or wipe out, an arrest only if a law enforcement agency made an error that led to the arrest.
By contrast, no member of the public could view the record of your arrest or conviction once a court seals it, except in limited circumstances.
You should not assume that the court will automatically seal your arrest or conviction. You will have to file the appropriate motions with the court that entered judgment against you or your child.
If the case resulted in a conviction, then the prosecution can oppose sealing your record.
How Can Petersen Criminal Defense Law Help?
Having a Nebraska criminal defense lawyer with a significant experience like Tom Petersen can help you in these circumstances.
As part of your defense, Tom may be able to convince the prosecution to defer judgment or have your child enter a diversion program and, upon successful completion, get the case dismissed.
As a result, you will have an easier time convincing a judge to seal your record. If this is not successful, then Tom could help you file a motion to seal your record.
The prosecution will not agree to dispositions like this in every case.
That’s why it’s important to explore all your options before committing to a course of action. Your best chance of success might be in challenging the legality of police conduct.
Alternatively, you could challenge the legal sufficiency of the evidence at trial. Having a frank discussion with a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer is necessary to determine your best interests.
Need Help with a Minor in Possession of Alcohol Charge in Nebraska?
Contact Nebraska criminal defense lawyer Tom Petersen and Petersen Criminal Defense Law today at 402-509-8070 to schedule a free consultation.
Tom and his team are available 24 hours a day to meet your needs.
He can even help you get released from jail after an arrest. He won’t judge or lecture you, but he’ll do his best to defend you.