Parents and guardians of children, who are defined as those who are less than 18 years of
age, have numerous responsibilities placed on them under Florida Statutes. Some of these
responsibilities are placed on them when a child is prosecuted for a law violation in Juvenile
Court under Florida Statutes, Chapter 985. Parents and guardians must attend all court
hearings with their child and can be ordered to pay for detention fees, commitment fees,
attorney fees, and restitution if their child is prosecuted in Juvenile Court. A parent or
guardian may also be ordered to participate in community service and counseling under
Chapter 985. Parents and guardians are also subjected to criminal liability in some cases if
they permit or assist their child in violating alcohol, tobacco, or school attendance laws.
The Florida Statutes Section 562.111 makes it unlawful for any person under the age of 21 to
possess alcohol. There is only one exception. The exception is for persons who are employed
by an establishment that serves alcohol. Those persons may possess alcohol if they are 18
years of age or older and the possession is during the course of their employment. Many of
those establishments cannot by law even employ children. A child may not possess alcohol
under any circumstances.
It is against the law for anyone under the age of 21 to possess alcohol in their own home or
while on their own property or with their parent's permission. Contrary to what seems to be a
popular belief, there are no other exceptions.
If a person less than 18 years is charged with the criminal offense of Possession of Alcohol by
a Person Less Than 21 Years of Age, the child could be punished by the Juvenile Court with a
disposition (sentence) of 60 days in a commitment program (the juvenile equivalent of jail) or
placement on community control (probation) for six months. If the child is convicted of a
second or subsequent violation, the penalty increases to one year of commitment or
In addition to these penalties, the Juvenile Court shall direct the Department of Highway
Safety and Motor Vehicles to withhold issuance of or suspend the driver's license of any child
found guilty of this offense. For a first violation the time period for withholding or suspending
the driver's license shall be for at least six months but not more than one year. For a second
violation the time period shall be for up to two years.
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles can also suspend a child's driver's
license without the direction of a court. Florida Statutes, Section 322.2616 gives the
Department the authority to suspend the driving privilege of any person under the age of 21
who is found by a law enforcement officer to be operating a motor vehicle with a
blood-alcohol level of .02 percent of higher. This is a lesser blood-alcohol level than required
for the charge of Driving under the Influence, which requires a blood-alcohol level of .08 of
higher. That charge is a criminal offense. Driving with a blood-alcohol of .02 or higher by a
person less than 21 is not a crime. It is an administrative procedure and a violation of a driving
restriction. The time period for the suspension is six months for the first violation and one
year for the second. An administrative process through the Department of Highway Safety and
Motor Vehicles accomplishes this. Law enforcement is authorized by the law to suspend the
driver's license immediately on behalf of the Department.
A parent or guardian may not give a child alcohol, even at home. If they do they will be
subjected to prosecution under Florida Statutes, Section 562.11. That Section makes it
unlawful for any person to sell, give, serve, or permit to be served alcohol to any person
under the age of 21. It does not make an exception for parents or guardians. If a parent or
guardian provides alcohol to a child, the parent or guardian could be subjected to prosecution
under Florida Statutes, Section 562.11 for the misdemeanor offense of Selling, Giving, or
Serving Alcoholic Beverages to a Person Under Age 21, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and
a $500.00 fine, and/or under Section 827.04 for the misdemeanor offense of contributing to the
delinquency of a child, punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1000.00 fine.
During the high school graduation season, oftentimes parents will rent a room in a hotel or
motel or let children use their home for parties. The parents reason that they know that the
children will drink alcohol no matter what they do, so they might as well provide a place for
the children to party so that the parents know where they are and that they are not out driving.
While their intentions are good, there is a law, which prohibits it. Florida Statutes, Section
856.015 makes it unlawful for an adult (defined as a person not legally prohibited from
possessing alcohol, i.e., anyone 21 years of age or older) who has control of a residence
(defined as a home, apartment, condominium, or other dwelling unit) to allow an open house
party (defined as a social gathering at a residence) if any alcohol or drug is possessed or
consumed by a minor (defined as anyone legally prohibited from possessing alcohol, i.e., less
than 21 years of age), where the adult knows that alcohol or drugs are being possessed or
consumed by a minor and fails to take reasonable steps to prevent the possession or
consumption. It is a misdemeanor of the second degree to violate this law. This means that a
person found guilty of the charge could be jailed for up to six months and fined up to $500.00.
With all of these laws, it is still legal for a person under 21 years of age to be a bartender.
Makes a hell of alot of sense. The Four Points Sheraton on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton
Beach takes advantage of this loophole. It was one of their bartenders that was convicted of
providing alcohol to minors that day.