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Underage Drinking and the Law

A letter from the Chief of the Wilton Police Department delineates how the law addresses underage drinking.

With recent regarding underage drinking and warmer weather just around the corner, it is timely to address the laws as they presently stand in Connecticut regarding underage drinking. What I hope to accomplish is to educate the community on what the police can and cannot do regarding this topic pursuant to law.

In Conn., possession of alcohol by a person under the age of 21 in a public or private place is prohibited by law unless a minor child is accompanied by parent or legal guardian who has given their permission to such minor child. If any person, regardless of age, provides alcohol to a minor who is not their child they can be charged with the crime of Providing Alcohol to a Minor. Even if you host a party and do not provide alcohol to a minor, you can be charged with hosting the party or failure to halt the party where alcohol is present. However, to be charged with such a crime you must have had knowledge that the underage drinking was taking place.

If an officer does locate alcohol and there are minors present, the officer must be able to articulate that a minor was in possession of alcohol not merely present. Police Officers in Conn. can make an arrest of someone only if the totality of circumstances they know at the time rises to the level of probable cause that a crime has been committed. This level of cause required to make an arrest is the same for all offenses allegedly committed in Conn.

If a person under 21 years of age is charged with Possession of Alcohol they will also be subjected to an administrative suspension of their driver’s license by the Conn. Dept. of Motor Vehicles for a period of up to 60 days.

Homeowners should also be aware that in addition to any criminal sanctions there may be civil ramifications for permitting alcohol consumption by a minor. Some homeowner policies will not cover civil liability in these cases.

The Wilton Police Department’s goal is to provide professional police services to the community.

Chief Michael Lombardo

Amo Probus March 09, 2012 at 11:39 AM
I am curious. How does this relate to the incident at the Rowe's? Were "minor's in possession of alcohol?" Were there arrests?
Diane Maudsley March 09, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Thank you for this. I will keep it handy and be sure it is clear to my child as prom season approaches and "after parties" develop.
Kim Fratarcangelo Hearl March 09, 2012 at 02:27 PM
Thank you for this information.
Heron March 09, 2012 at 03:20 PM
I *think* this means that the Rowes could not be charged with a crime because they did not have any knowledge that underage teenagers were drinking in their home.
Keith Creveling March 09, 2012 at 11:47 PM
A technical question for the Chief. I think a minor is legally defined as someone under 18, but the drinking age is 21. When you use the term "minor" in this article, are you referring to those under 21?
Michael Kennedy March 10, 2012 at 01:03 AM
Visit our website - www.empiredrugfree.com - we sell personal breathalyzers - Know your Alcohol iQ.
Michael Kennedy March 10, 2012 at 01:10 AM
Also if I can direct you to the www.niaaa.nih.gov/youthguide website, they have great booklet for teens regarding under age drinking. "Look for Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth". This is a free brochure. If you need assistance, please contact me.
Concernedparent March 11, 2012 at 11:39 AM
heres the law as it is on the books: http://enfield-ct.gov/filestorage/91/115/5085/CT-Underage_Drinking_laws.pdf
Concernedparent March 11, 2012 at 11:44 AM
hi possibly you could post these links on the underage drinking page comments...thx for posting..
Concernedparent March 11, 2012 at 12:17 PM
http://www.ct.gov/opm/cwp/view.asp?a=2974&q=425964 this should be required reading by anyone associated with teenagers
2012 March 11, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I am very confused by this law. Am I correct that if the parents give permission and they are present, you can allow someone's child to consume alcohol in your home? What if they give permission in writing? When I was a teenager, the drinking age was 18. This law is ridiculous in so many ways. I think a compromise would be to allow wine/beer at 18 and hard liquor at 21. We are never going to stop it - the best we can do is control it. Law abiding parents have a difficult time. Basically, your child and their friends are forced to go outside the home (to who knows where) to drink. It is a very concerning situation. Safety is my top priority. No drinking and driving goes without saying. I have had three children at the high school and all three have stated that probably 100% of seniors drink. If you think your child doesn't - you are most likely wrong. Lets get our heads out of the sand and keep them safe. NO questions asked if they call and need to be picked up. With the drug of choice being heroin at the high school, drinking a few beers doesn't seem to bad, does it?
Jlo March 11, 2012 at 07:54 PM
No, you can allow your kids to consume alcohol while they are with you...i.e. a glass of wine at dinner, but you can't serve other peoples kids alcohol and you can't buy your kids booze and ship them off to a party with it. Also in this case a minor is under 18 but the law applies to anyone under legal drinking age. This law makes sense because parents should be allowed to let their kids drink under their supervision. Its better they learn it at home from their parents than under a rail road bridge in Wilton Center.
Craig Donofrio March 12, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Currently in the eyes of the law, a minor is 16 and under, while a "youthful offender" is 17 years-old. "Youthful offender" used to apply to 16 and 17 year-olds, but is now just 17-year-olds. After talking with the Wilton PD recently, I'm under the impression that the laws are slowly being rolled changed to make it so all persons under 18 will be considered minors. I'm not entirely sure what the reasoning is or ramifications are.

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