Quite often people assume that underage drinking is not a major offense and as such there is no need to hire a lawyer. While in part that is true, the need for a lawyer becomes clear when you take into account the variety of penalties that an individual may face.
Wisconsin Statute 125.07(4) summarizes the general penalties for an underage drinking ticket in Wisconsin. An underage drinking ticket in Wisconsin is a forfeiture, meaning a non-criminal offense that results in a fine. Possessing or using a fake ID is also a forfeiture in Wisconsin, but can result in a fine ranging from $300 to $1,250 and a driver’s license suspension ranging from 30 to 90 days. Although an underage drinking ticket is non-criminal and does not carry the possibility of jail time, there are still collateral consequences.
Any underage person who does any of the following is guilty of an underage drinking violation: (1) Procures or attempts to procure alcohol beverages from a licensee or permittee; (2) Possesses or consumes alcohol beverages on licensed premises unless a parent, guardian or spouse who has attained the legal drinking age is present; (3) Knowingly enters, attempts to enter or is on a licensed premises in violation of 125.07(3)(a); or (4) Falsely represents his or her age for the purpose of receiving alcohol beverages from a licensee or permittee.
An individual cited for a first violation is subject to a fine ranging from $250 to $500, suspension of operating privileges, participation in a supervised work program or other community service work or any combination of these penalties. If an individual is cited for a second violation within 12 months of the previous violation, he or she is subject to either a fine ranging from $300 to $500, participation in a supervised work program or other community service work or any combination of these penalties. Additionally, operating privileges may be suspended for up to a year. If, however, the violation involved a motor vehicle, operating privileges must be suspended.
A third violation occurring within 12 months of two previous violations will result in either a fine ranging from $500 to $750, participation in a supervised work program or other community service work or any combination of these results. Operating privileges may be suspended for up to a year unless the violation involved a motor vehicle, in which case operating privileges must be suspended. A fourth violation within 12 months of three or more previous violations will result in either a fine ranging from $750 to $1,000, participation in a supervised work program or alternative community service, or any combination of these penalties. After a fourth violation, operating privileges may be suspended for up to two years unless the violation involved a motor vehicle, which will result in a definite suspension of operating privileges.
Although it may seem easier to simply pay the fine for an underage drinking violation, it is important to remember that these tickets carry other consequences beyond the fine. Underage drinking tickets may lead to a driver’s license suspension and will show up on your driving record, which may impact auto insurance rates. College students cited for underage drinking may also face consequences that affect their education such as loss of scholarship or other school-related penalties.
For these reasons, it can be extremely beneficial to hire an attorney after receiving an underage drinking ticket. In many cases, an attorney can have the charges reduced or dismissed through participation in a court-sponsored alcohol awareness program. Most municipalities throughout Wisconsin allow the opportunity for participation in these programs. An attorney may also be able to have the ticket removed from your record upon completion of an alcohol awareness program. An attorney knows how to handle an underage drinking ticket as efficiently as possible, and can save you time, money and the hassle of unanticipated future consequences.