What are the laws surrounding contributing to the delinquency of a minor in Arizona? Is it a misdemeanor or a felony crime to give alcohol to an underaged person?

Parents and legal guardians are responsible for caring for minors under their supervision. Some people are charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor by accident. But even if you didn’t mean to do so, the courts in Arizona consider it a serious offense.

Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor

The legal system will punish anyone who is caught encouraging a minor to participate in delinquent behavior. If you’re the parent of the minor, the courts may deem you unfit to be a parent. The minor may also be facing serious consequences that will impact their future opportunities.

The following could be considered contributing to the delinquency of a minor:

  • Underage drinking at home
  • Underage drinking and driving
  • Minors in Possession
  • Buying alcohol for an underage person

What is “Delinquency”?

According to state law, delinquency is any act that injures or debases the welfare, health, or morals of a minor or dependent person. Delinquent behavior can include loitering, gambling, consuming or purchasing alcohol, associating with criminals, and inappropriate sexual conduct among other things. Delinquency usually falls into one of these categories:

  • A minor breaking the law
  • A minor engaging in conduct that may injure his (or another person’s) health or morals
  • A minor behaving in ways that show they’re at risk of getting caught up in criminal activities

What is “Contributing”?

Contributing to delinquency essentially means helping a child commit a crime or engage in the behaviors listed above. You can receive a charge for this crime either by committing certain acts or through omission of an act (failing to stop the minor from engaging in delinquent behavior). Engaging in illegal behavior in front of a minor can also come with criminal charges. 

The consequences for this crime will vary based on the severity of the situation. Much of the time, contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a Class 1 misdemeanor charge that comes along with other charges. If you, as the contributor to the minor’s delinquency, have prior charges, that will increase the seriousness of the offense.

Underage Drinking at Home

Some parents decide to host parties at their home to prevent their underage children from drinking and driving or getting into other trouble. If you decide to do this, keep in mind that a person who is over the legal drinking age can face legal consequences if they knowingly allow drinking at a gathering of at least two minors who aren’t either immediate family members or permanently residing with the host. 

This charge should only apply if you know or should know that at least one of the minors is consuming or in possession of alcohol at your home. The crime is a Class 1 misdemeanor and can come with up to 6 months in jail and a maximum fine of $2,500. 

What if it wasn’t you who gave alcohol to minors, but they were still drinking on your property? Arizona law states that you’re only guilty if you were aware or should have been aware. The “should have been aware” aspect leaves a lot of room for interpretation, so it depends on your unique situation. Speaking with a lawyer may be helpful to figure out what charges you might be facing.

Other Crimes Involving Minors and Alcohol

As mentioned, contributing to the delinquency of a minor often comes with other charges. Or, your child may face charges while they’re away at college or otherwise outside of your supervision. Here are some alcohol-related crimes that minors may be charged with: 

Underage Drinking and Driving

Arizona has some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation, and there is a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. If a minor is driving after having alcohol, they can get a (Class 1 misdemeanor) DUI, even if they aren’t impaired. This offense may come with a $2,500 fine, a license suspension, community service or an alcohol treatment program, and up to half a year in a juvenile detention facility. 

The minor may also have an ignition interlock device installed in their car. This device functions like a breathalyzer and prevents the vehicle from starting up if the driver has a certain amount of alcohol in their system. You can receive a DUI charge as an adult or minor, even if the car is parked and you’re in the driver’s seat. If your child has been charged with an underage DUI, it’s crucial to seek legal assistance.

Minors in Possession

According to Arizona law, anyone younger than 21 isn’t allowed to consume alcohol in a public place unless it’s for a religious ceremony or a legitimate medical purpose. And even then, these exceptions only count if the safety and health of the public aren’t under threat. Minors younger than 21 can be in a bar with their spouse, guardian, or parent who is of legal drinking age, but they may not order alcoholic drinks.

A minor in possession (MIP) charge applies whether the minor is holding an open or unopened container of alcohol. The officer doesn’t have to prove that you were drinking the alcohol, just that you were in possession of it. A minor in possession charge may come with court costs, fines, community service, a misdemeanor charge, and possible time in jail. It’s important to talk with an attorney if your child is charged with this offense.

Getting Legal Assistance in Arizona

You may be faced with contributing to the delinquency of a minor by supplying alcohol to an underage person, but even buying it for them or allowing a minor to use tobacco or alcohol products in your home can fall under this category.

A misdemeanor charge can seriously impact your future, and you may be facing more severe penalties if you’ve had prior offenses. If you were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, you may be able to get your charges reduced with the right legal assistance. An experienced attorney will help you analyze your case and come up with a suitable defense.

Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.

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