7 Things You Should Know About Selling Alcohol To A Minor

California Business & Professions Code 26568

Furnishing or supplying alcohol to a minor, or anyone under the age of 21, is a misdemeanor offense in California under California Business & Professions Code 25658(a) BP1.

How Does the Prosecutor Prove The Charge?

This offense encompasses more than just unlawfully selling alcohol to underage individuals. The elements of the crime include:

  • Selling, providing or giving away; or causing to sell, provide or give away; an alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21
  • Being a licensee that sells adult beverages and allowing persons under 21 to drink at your establishment or on your premises, regardless if you have knowledge that such activity is going on
  • Being a minor and purchasing alcohol or consuming it in a business or establishment where alcohol is sold
Strict Liability

B & P Code 25658 is a strict liability crime. This means that in order to be convicted, the prosecution need only prove that you, individually, or an employee of your business, sold alcohol to a person under the age of 21, whether you knew or suspected the person was underage or not.

You do not have to be a business owner where alcoholic beverages are sold to be charged and convicted under this offense. Anyone who is an adult and buys alcohol and then furnishes, sells or gives it to a minor is culpable as well.

Bars and nightclubs are encouraged to contact law enforcement when an underage individual attempts to buy alcohol by displaying an altered or counterfeit identification card, usually a driver’s license.

Businesses that sell alcohol to minors face stiff fines and suspension of their liquor license for such offenses and risk loss of their license if they are convicted of too many offenses.

Legal Defenses

Regardless of this crime being a strict liability offense, the law does offer defenses that your criminal defense attorney can present on your behalf:

An Honest and Reasonable Belief —

This is also a mistake of fact defense that can be used so long as you had a reasonable and well-founded belief that the individual was at least 21. You may be able to avail yourself of this defense if the person’s ID card appeared to be legitimate, had the person’s image on it and the individual looked to be 212. However, if the defendant merely misread the date on the ID or was not aware of the age requirements this would not consitutute a valid defense3. Additionally if the iID did not appear to be legitimate then can still be prosecuted under this statute4.

Penalties For BP 25658

For selling or giving away alcohol to a minor, you face:

  • A fine of up to $10005
  • Perform at least 24 hours of community service at an alcohol or drug treatment facility or the county coroner’s office6

You face stiffer penalties if the minor to whom you sold or furnished the alcohol then drove a motor vehicle or engaged in some activity where that individual suffered great bodily harm or death, or caused someone else to do so.

If convicted, you face from:

  • 6 months to 1  year in county jail7
  • A fine up to $1000.8

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Can I order wine or beer for my minor child in a restaurant in California?

 Answer: No, it is illegal to furnish or provide alcohol to a minor under any circumstances in California.

Question: Can my child consume alcohol during a religious ceremony?

 Answer: Some states do have exceptions and allow minors to consume alcohol under certain circumstances such as during a religious ceremony. California has no such exception.

Question: Can I work in a restaurant or bar in California even though I am not 21?

 Answer: You can work in a bar or restaurant that serves alcohol when you are 18.

Contributing To The Delinquency Of A Minor

A companion offense to this charge is Penal Code 272—contributing to the delinquency of a minor. This offense is committed when:

  1. You commit an act or fail to perform a duty,
  2. In a way that encourages or causes a minor (under the age of 18) to become a delinquent, habitual truant or ward of the juvenile court

If you are a parent and you give your child alcohol under most circumstances, you may not be exercising reasonable care, properly supervising or protecting your child from harm or from engaging in a criminal act. Furnishing the alcohol may demonstrate criminal intent.

Criminal negligence is also sufficient to charge you if know that your child is doing drugs that you have at your home and do nothing to prevent your child from accessing it. If convicted, you face up to one year in county jail and fine of up to $25009.

Similarly, parents who allow their children or other minors to drink at their home can be held criminally responsible and can face up to one year in county jail and a fine of no more than $1000 if their child or other minor who was also drinking to have a BAC of 0.05% or be under the influence. This extends to incidents where the child or other minor then drives a car and causes a traffic accident.

Minors Who Drink

As a minor who purchases or consumes alcohol in a place where alcohol is sold, you may have to pay a fine up to $250 and perform community service of 24-32 hours. Subsequent violations subject you to a fine not to exceed $500 and community service of 36-48 hours. Regardless if you were driving a motor vehicle at the time, the DMV will suspend your driver’s license for one year or delay your obtaining your license for one year from the date you become eligible.

Serving Minors in a Bar, Restaurant or Club

Bars and other businesses with on-site liquor licenses where patrons can consume alcohol face a 15-day suspension of their license for a first offense. A second conviction within 36-months will result in a 25-day suspension. A third conviction within this time will cause the business license to be revoked. ABC or the Alcohol Beverage Control will allow bars or clubs to pay a fine for first and second convictions in lieu of having their license suspended10.

How We Can Help

If you have been arrested for and would like to learn more about what attorneys charge.

If you want to understand why its important to have an attorney represent you.

If you are ready to discuss a pending case with an attorney contact the Aizman Law Firm at 818-351-9555 for a free confidential consultation.

Get Legal Help Now

Request A Free Consultation 818-351-9555 


  1. California Business and Professions Code 25658(a) – Except as otherwise provided in subdivision (c), every person who sells, furnishes, gives, or causes to be sold, furnished, or given away, any alcoholic beverage to any person under the age of 21 years is guilty of a misdemeanor. []
  2. California Business and Professions Code 25660 – (a) Bona fide evidence of majority and identity of the person is any of the following: (1) A document issued by a federal, state, county, or municipal government, or subdivision or agency thereof, including, but not limited to, a valid motor vehicle operator’s license, that contains the name, date of birth, description, and picture of the person(2) A valid passport issued by the United States or by a foreign government. (3) A valid identification card issued to a member of the Armed Forces that includes a date of birth and a picture of the person(b) Proof that the defendant-licensee, or his or her employee or agent, demanded, was shown, and acted in reliance upon bona fide evidence in any transaction, employment, use, or permission forbidden by Section 25658 , 25663 , or 25665 shall be a defense to any criminal prosecution therefor or to any proceedings for the suspension or revocation of any license based thereon. []
  3. In re Jennings (2004) 34 Cal.4th 254, 277-278. []
  4. Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control v. Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Bd. (2004) 118 Cal.App.4th 1429, 1437. []
  5. California Business And Professions Code 25658(e)(2) BP – Except as provided in paragraph (3), any person who violates subdivision (a) by furnishing an alcoholic beverage, or causing an alcoholic beverage to be furnished, to a minor shall be punished by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), no part of which shall be suspended, and the person shall be required to perform not less than 24 hours of community service during hours when the person is not employed and is not attending school. []
  6. Same, Business And Professions Code 25658(e)(2) BP. []
  7. California Business And Professions Code 25658(e)(3) BP – Any person who violates subdivision (c) shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail for a minimum term of six months not to exceed one year, by a fine of one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both imprisonment and fine. []
  8. See above Business And Professions Code – 25658(e)(3) BP. []
  9. California Penal Code 272(a)(1) – Every person who commits any act or omits the performance of any duty, which act or omission causes or tends to cause or encourage any person under the age of 18 years to come within the provisions of Section 300, 601, or 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code or which act or omission contributes thereto, or any person who, by any act or omission, or by threats, commands, or persuasion, induces or endeavors to induce any person under the age of 18 years or any ward or dependent child of the juvenile court to fail or refuse to conform to a lawful order of the juvenile court, or to do or to perform any act or to follow any course of conduct or to so live as would cause or manifestly tend to cause that person to become or to remain a person within the provisions of Section 300, 601, or 602 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or by both fine and imprisonment in a county jail, or may be released on probation for a period not exceeding five years. []
  10. Alcohol and Beverage Control Penalty Guidelines []

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