Massachusetts G.L. c. 138, § 34C: Minors; operation of motor vehicle containing alcoholic beverage; suspension of driver’s license

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 138, Section 34C makes it a crime for a person under the age of 21 to knowingly possess, transport, or carry on his person any alcoholic beverage, with a few exceptions. The statute states:

Whoever, being under twenty-one years of age and not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, knowingly possesses, transports or carries on his person, any alcohol or alcoholic beverages, shall be punished by a fine of not more than fifty dollars for the first offense and not more than one hundred and fifty dollars for a second or subsequent offense; provided, however, that this section shall not apply to a person between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one who knowingly possesses, transports or carries on his person, alcohol or alcoholic beverages in the course of his employment. A police officer may arrest without a warrant any person who violates this section. A conviction of a violation of this section shall be reported forthwith to the registrar of motor vehicles by the court, and said registrar shall thereupon suspend for a period of ninety days the license of such person to operate a motor vehicle.

To convict a person under this statute, the Commonwealth must prove that all of the following were true at the time of the alleged crime:

  1. The defendant was under 21 years old;
  2. The defendant was not with a parent or legal guardian;
  3. The defendant was either possessing alcohol, transporting alcohol, or carrying alcohol on his person; and
  4. The defendant knew that he or she was possessing alcohol, transporting alcohol, or had alcohol on his person.
Examples: G.L. c. 138, Section 34C

Under this statute, a teenager or other underage person may be convicted if he knows that he has alcohol in his pocket, in his bag, or in his vehicle, even if the person is with a sibling, aunt, uncle, or close friend who is over the age of 21 at the time.

Related Offenses

A person charged under G.L. c. 138, Section 34C might also be charged under G.L. c. 138, Section 34A, which makes it a crime to willfully misrepresent or attempt to misrepresent your age with the intent, and for the purpose of, purchasing alcoholic beverages.

Defenses to Charges of Minor’s Possession of Alcohol

Depending on the factual circumstances, a number of possible defenses could defeat a conviction under this statute. For example, under the statute, a minor cannot be convicted if he or she was accompanied by a parent or legal guardian at the time the alcohol was in his or her possession. Likewise, the statute allows persons between the ages of 18 and 21 to possess, transport, or carry alcohol if he or she is doing so as part of his or her employment. If there is any suggestion that the defendant did not have knowledge that he or she had alcohol in his or her possession, this could also be a successful defense to the charges.

Finally, the circumstances under which the police became aware that the minor was possessing or transporting alcohol may provide a basis for a defense lawyer to suppress the evidence of the crime. For example, if the police discovered the alcohol during the course of an unlawful motor vehicle stop of a teen driver, or during an unlawful pat-and-frisk search of a group of teenagers, a defense attorney may be successful in preventing the Commonwealth from using evidence that the alcohol was found on the minor at the time of trial.

Penalties

Possession of alcohol by a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $50 for a first offense, and a fine of up to $150 for a second offense. However, if a person is convicted under the statute, then the conviction will be reported to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, and the defendant’s driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days. Because a convicted defendant will not be permitted to drive for three months, the conviction could have serious secondary effects on his or her ability to work, get transportation to work or school, or otherwise go about his or her daily life.

Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyer 617 263 6800

If you or someone you know is a minor who has been charged with unlawful possession or transportation of alcohol or alcoholic beverages, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, P.C. Attorney Neyman has successfully defended clients facing these charges. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation at 617-263-6800 or online.

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