Sale of Alcohol to a Minor in Charleston, SC can Result in Fines, Jail Time, and Revocation of Your Alcohol Beverage License

The sale of alcohol to a minor is a serious offense in SC that can result in fines, jail time, and civil penalties including the revocation of an establishment’s alcohol licenses.

As many local store clerks and bartenders have discovered, SC law enforcement regularly conducts “sting” operations where they will send a person under the age of 21 into an establishment to purchase alcohol.

If the clerk does not check their ID and lets them leave with the alcoholic beverages, they are arrested, prosecuted, and their establishment will now have to deal with an administrative process that can result in large fines and the loss of their alcohol license.

Below, we will take a look at:

  • Charges for sale of alcohol to a minor,
  • Charges for buying alcohol for a minor,
  • Charges for transferring alcohol to a minor,
  • Charges that can be brought against minors for purchasing or possessing alcohol,
  • The potential criminal and civil penalties, and
  • Exceptions to SC’s laws prohibiting possession of alcohol by a minor or transfer of alcohol to a minor.

Sale of Alcohol to a Minor

It is illegal to sell alcohol to a minor, to purchase alcohol for a minor, or to transfer alcohol to a minor in SC, and a conviction can result not only in jail time and fines for the person who made the sale, but it can also result in the business’s loss of their alcohol license and additional civil fines and penalties.

SC Code Section 61-6-4080 and Section 61-4-50 make it a crime for “[a] person engaged in the sale of alcoholic liquors [to] knowingly sell… alcoholic liquors [or beer or wine] to a person under the age of twenty-one,” that is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a requirement to “successfully complete a DAODAS approved merchant alcohol enforcement education program.”

Although the law says, “knowingly,” that’s not necessarily true – the same law also says, “[f]ailure of a person to require identification to verify a person’s age is prima facie evidence of a violation of this section,” which means:

  • You cannot be convicted for sale of alcohol to a minor if you made a good-faith attempt to verify their age, but their identification says they are 21 or older, but
  • You can be convicted for sale of alcohol to a minor, even if they look like a bearded 30-year-old, if you did not ask for identification and verify their age.

The sale of alcohol to a minor is not the only criminal offense for providing alcohol to someone who is underaged, though – the SC legislature has passed numerous related laws, including criminal offenses for buying alcohol for a minor or simply for giving alcohol to a minor.

Purchase of Alcohol for a Minor

SC Code Section 61-6-4075 and Section 61-4-80 also make it a crime to buy alcohol for a minor:

It is unlawful for a person who purchases alcoholic liquors [or beer or wine] while on licensed premises to give the alcoholic liquors to a person to whom it cannot lawfully be sold on the premises.

Buying alcohol and then giving it to a minor is also a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail.

Transfer of Alcohol to a Minor

What if you didn’t sell the alcohol to the minor, and you didn’t buy the alcohol for the minor, but you just give alcohol to a minor? What if it’s done in your own home, in a restaurant, or on a street corner?

SC Code Section 61-6-4070 and Section 61-4-90 make it “unlawful for a person to transfer or give [alcohol] to a person under the age of twenty-one years for the purpose of consumption of alcoholic liquors [or beer or wine] in the State,” although there are some exceptions including:

  • A spouse over the age of 21 providing alcohol to their spouse under the age of 21 in their home,
  • A parent or guardian giving alcohol to their child under the age of 21 in their home,
  • Provision of alcohol to a minor in conjunction with religious ceremonies,
  • A person over the age of 18 who is permitted to serve beer, wine, or liquor (but a bartender must be 21 years old or over),
  • An employee under the age of 21 who is responsible for selling or delivering alcoholic beverages in an unopened container, or
  • A student over the age of 18 who is required to taste (but not consume) alcohol as part of a culinary course at an accredited college or university.

License Revocation and Civil Penalties

Will your alcohol license be revoked if you or an employee sells alcohol to a minor?

It can be, although it may also result in a brief suspension or fines if it is not a repeat offense and there are no other violations – note that the department can suspend, revoke, or refuse to renew a license where the licensee has violated any provisions of the ABC Act.

Section 61-6-4270 allows the Department to, in its discretion, impose a monetary penalty upon the holder of a liquor license in lieu of suspension or revocation.

Section 61-4260 says that your beer, wine, or liquor license is automatically revoked upon a conviction for selling alcohol to a minor – one year for a first offense and two years for a second offense, but the Department has discretion to permit the license holder to pay a monetary penalty in lieu of the suspension (which must be paid within ten days or the license is automatically revoked).

Unlawful Purchase or Possession of Alcohol by a Minor

Just as it is a crime to sell, purchase for, or transfer alcohol to a minor, it is also a crime “for a person under the age of twenty-one to purchase, attempt to purchase, consume, or knowingly possess alcoholic liquors [or beer or wine].”

SC Code Section 61-6-4085 and Section 61-4-100 require that, if a person is charged with the unlawful sale of alcohol to a minor, the minor must also be charged with the unlawful purchase and possession of the alcohol (unless they were recruited by law enforcement to make the unlawful purchase in a “sting operation.”)

Criminal Defense Attorney in Charleston, SC

Charleston criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone focuses on criminal defense cases – including charges for sale of alcohol to a minor or minor in possession of alcohol. We will get your case dismissed, find an outcome that is acceptable to you, or try your case to a jury.

If you have been charged with a crime in the Charleston area, call SC criminal defense lawyer Grant B. Smaldone now at (843) 808-2100 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.