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Know The Law

A Guide for Youth and Parents



While every attempt has been made to include current, accurate information about the law, it is intended only as a guide.  Information included is not intended as an authoritative interpretation of the law.  Readers should consult with law enforcement officials, the State Attorney’s Office or an attorney for specific questions about the law.





What is an Alcoholic Beverage?

Any drink that has at least one half (1/2) of one (1) percent alcohol is an alcoholic beverage.  Ethyl alcohol, the active ingredient in alcoholic drinks, acts as a depressant.  There are four types of alcoholic beverages:  beer, wine, fortified wine, and liquor.  Each contains different amounts of alcohol.


How is Drinking Alcohol Dangerous?

Drinking alcohol is dangerous for the following reasons:

  • Damages your liver, mouth, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, brain and heart.

  • Impairs the brain, causes memory loss, and lowers the ability of the brain to control behavior.

  • Impairs your ability to perform motor skills such as driving a car.

  • Causes Fetal Alcohol Syndrome in an unborn child, which can result in mental retardation.


When Can I purchase or Drink an Alcoholic Beverage?

You must be 21 years of age to purchase, possess or drink alcohol.  If you try to buy an alcoholic beverage in a store or a bar, you will be asked to prove your age.  If you cannot prove that you are 21 or older, the dealer cannot sell you an alcoholic beverage.


If you are under age 21, it is illegal for you to attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage.  If you are 18 years of age or older and this is your first violation, you could be fined up to $500, confined for up to 60 days or receive 6 months probation.  If you are under 18 years of age you will face juvenile delinquency sanctions. 


Anyone who sells or gives alcoholic beverages to a person under 21, or who lets the person drink alcoholic beverages in a bar or store, is breaking the law.


NOTE:  You cannot lend, borrow, or falsify a driver’s license.


Other Laws on Alcoholic Beverages

  • Open Container Florida Law prohibits the possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages by the driver and passengers of most motor vehicles (excluding a limo or large motor home.)  An open container is defined as “any container that is immediately capable of being consumed from, or the seal of which has been broken”, meaning the container does not have to be open.  Open containers must be carried in a locked glove compartment, locked trunk, or other locked non-passenger accessible area of the vehicle.

  • Implied Consent By accepting and using a Florida Driver’s License, a person agrees to submit to a chemical or physical test of their blood or breath alcohol level and a urine test for drugs and other controlled substances when arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  If you refuse, your license will be suspended for one year, and your refusal can be used as evidence against you.  These tests can be administered without your consent if you severely injure someone or are unconscious.

  • School Discipline If you posses, drink, sell, or give liquor to any person in or at any public school or school grounds, then you can be suspended or expelled for this in addition to facing criminal charges.


Can I Borrow a Driver’s License or ID or Change the Age on Mine to Show I’m 21 or Older?

No.  In both cases, you will be breaking the law.  The penalty for using an identification with an altered date of birth is a 2nd degree misdemeanor with imprisonment for up to 60 days.  The penalty for possessing or manufacturing a false identification is a 3rd degree felony with imprisonment up to 5 years.


Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

It is illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  DUI can be proved by a Blood Alcohol limit of .08 and higher or if your normal driving faculties are impaired.  Impaired can be caused by alcohol, alcohol in combination with other medications, legal and illegal drugs.  Penalties for DUI include:  arrests, court costs and fines (a court case can cost up to $6,000), impoundment, license revocation of six months to a year, DUI School and Evaluation, ignition interlock device, probation of up to a year, 50 hours of community service and increased insurance costs.  A DUI stays on your record for 75 years.


Special DUI Provisions for Persons Under the Age of 21

The unlawful blood alcohol level for drivers under the age of 21 is .02% (the smallest amount to register on a breathalyzer test).


The driver’s license suspension is both for a refusal to take the test and also if you take the test and have a blood or breath alcohol level of .02 or higher.





If You Host a Party or If You Go to a Party

These activities may be considered disturbing the peace:

  • Excessive rowdiness

  • Fighting

  • Loud Music


Open House Parties

An open house party is a party where alcohol or drugs are served to an underage person.


It is a second degree misdemeanor for a person in control of a home to knowingly allow a minor to possess or consume alcohol or drugs at an open house party.


It is a first degree misdemeanor if a person allows an underage drinking party for a second or subsequent time, or if the minor who consumed alcohol is killed or seriously injured, or if the minor causes or contributes to causing injury or death to another person. 


To locate the Florida statutes for all laws, visit Online Sunshine:


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