The Drinking Age in Florida: Understanding Florida Drinking Laws

The State of Florida is serious about underage drinking. Knowing the drinking age in Florida – and the consequences if you do not obey the law – is important to your future.

One of the most common questions young people ask about alcohol is:
“Can you drink at 18 in Florida?”

Young people who live in the state or come to visit our sunny beaches should know Florida liquor laws and related laws regarding alcohol.

What is the Legal Drinking Age in Florida?

The drinking age in Florida is 21. It is the same as the national standard across the country.

According to Florida Statutes §562.111(1), if anyone is under that age, it is illegal to be in possession of alcohol. There are two types of possession listed under the law.

Actual Possession: Holding the alcoholic beverage (or on your person, such as in your pocket)

Constructive Possession: Occurs when authorities can prove three elements regarding the alcohol:

  • knowledge of the presence of alcohol;
  • an understanding that it is illegal to have alcohol if you are under 21;
  • dominion and control are exercised over the alcohol limit.

Since Florida’s legal drinking age is 21, anyone under that age may be charged with either actual possession or constructive possession by a law enforcement official.

Additionally, 18-year-olds, or others under 21, are not legally able to be in possession of alcohol if they are under their parent’s supervision. Unlike other states, such as Georgia, South Carolina, and Mississippi, Florida does not allow family members to provide alcohol to minors or supervise their alcohol possession in the State of Florida.

Penalties for Violating Florida Laws for Underage Possession

As mentioned above, the state is serious about the drinking age in Florida. If you are arrested for underage possession, the penalties can be harsh.

First Offense: Second Degree Misdemeanor, up to 60 days imprisonment, up to a $500 fine

Second Offense: First Degree Misdemeanor, up to 12 months in prison, up to a $1,000 fine

Additionally, if there is a conviction for underage possession, there are consequences with your driver’s license. The courts direct the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle to revoke (take away) or withhold its issuing if you do not have one yet.

First Offense: revoke or withhold license for six months to one-year duration

Second Offense: revoke or withhold license for up to two years

Penalties for FAKE IDs

Sometimes, people try to get around the drinking age in Florida by using fake IDs. This is not advisable. Florida laws are very harsh for fake IDs.

Did you know that it is illegal to use a forged, stolen, borrowed, or counterfeit Florida driver’s license or ID card to obtain or purchase alcohol? This is a third-degree felony. Penalties include:

  • Up to a $5,000 fine; and/or
  • Up to 5 years in prison

Penalties for Drinking and Driving

Florida also takes drinking and driving very seriously. It is dangerous. The laws on the books include severe penalties for both underage drivers and those 21 and over.

The Zero Tolerance Law

This DUI law is specifically for drivers under the age of 21. If you are stopped by law enforcement and found to have a blood-alcohol level (BAL) of .02 or higher, your Florida driver’s license will be automatically suspended for six months. This Zero Tolerance essentially means that drivers under the age of 21 can not legally have any alcohol to drink and get behind the wheel.

Other penalties for drinking and driving can include heavy fines, confiscation and impounding of your vehicle, and even jail time. The penalties for a DUI increase after your first offense.

If a driver of a vehicle is 21 or over, the BAL for a DUI is .08. Drinking and driving at any age is a serious offense that comes with harsh penalties.

What to Do If You Get Arrested for Underage Drinking

Florida is well-known as a popular vacation and spring break destination. It is a place of fun in the sun with friends and family.

But when young people who either do not know the drinking age in Florida or decide to ignore the law get arrested, it can be a scary and stressful time.

Know that anyone who gets arrested has a right to an attorney.

With an experienced Clearwater DUI Attorney on your side, you will have a strong advocate to work for the best outcome in a difficult situation.

Dean Tsourakis has decades of experience helping clients who have been arrested. Whether you face charges for partaking in alcohol while being under the legal drinking age in Florida or are 21 or over, he will deliver an aggressive defense.

Contact the law office of Dean Tsourakis today to set up a free consultation.