Providing Alcohol to High School Students Has Stiff Legal Penalties

With the beginning of a new school year comes an exciting new season of activities, events, and parties for students.  Knowing the allure that alcohol holds for some teens, it may be tempting for parents to try to ensure their children’s safety by providing alcohol at parties.  After all, if children are going to get together and drink, isn’t it better for them to drink at home where parents can ensure no one drives or engages in other dangerous activities under the influence?

Providing alcohol to high school students who are unaccompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years of age or older is a crime in Virginia.

Providing alcohol to high school students who are unaccompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years of age or older is a crime in Virginia.

This approach might make sense in theory, but parents should resist the urge to engage in such logic in practice.  Providing alcohol to underage guests who are unaccompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse who is 21 years of age or older is a crime that carries severe penalties in Virginia, including incarceration and loss of your driver’s license.

Virginia Code §4.1-306 states that “Any person who purchases for, or otherwise gives, provides, or assists in the provision of alcoholic beverages to another person, when he or she has reason to know that such person was less than 21 years of age…is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.” [1]  Accordingly, such a conviction is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.  As an added penalty, any person convicted of such an offense “shall have his license to operate a motor vehicle suspended for a period of not more than a year.”  Jail time, a hefty fine, and the loss of your license, all because you thought you were being a responsible parent?  Could this really happen?  Yes.

Virginia authorities are serious about prosecuting these offenses.  Two parents in Albemarle County thought they were doing the right thing by holding their son’s 16th birthday party at their home under their supervision.  They purchased several hundred dollars’ worth of alcohol for the underage guests, and confiscated car keys at the beginning of the party.  Despite their best intentions and argument that “nothing happened,” they were convicted of multiple accounts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and ultimately sentenced to 27 months in jail.

Such convictions would be life-changing – maybe life-ruining – events for most of us.  Convictions and incarceration could result in the loss of your job, leading to the loss of your home, and even the loss of custody of your children.

Please don’t take a chance.  For information and suggestions on how to protect your children and yourself, please see “Virginia Alcohol Laws & Parental Responsibility,” a guide developed by the Virginia Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and available at https://www.abc.virginia.gov/library/education/pdfs/parent.pdf?la=en.


[1] § 4.1-306. Purchasing alcoholic beverages for one to whom they may not be sold; penalty; forfeiture.

A. Any person who purchases alcoholic beverages for another person, and at the time of such purchase knows or has reason to believe that the person for whom the alcoholic beverage was purchased was (i) interdicted, or (ii) intoxicated, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

A1. Any person who purchases for, or otherwise gives, provides, or assists in the provision of alcoholic beverages to another person, knowing that such person was less than 21 years of age, except (i) pursuant to subdivisions 1 through 7 of § 4.1-200; (ii) where possession of the alcoholic beverages by a person less than 21 years of age is due to such person’s making a delivery of alcoholic beverages in pursuance of his employment or an order of his parent; or (iii) by any state, federal, or local law-enforcement officer when possession of an alcoholic beverage is necessary in the performance of his duties, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

B. In addition to any other penalty authorized by law, any person found guilty of a violation of this section shall have his license to operate a motor vehicle suspended for a period of not more than one year. The court, in its discretion, may authorize any person convicted of a violation of this section the use of a restricted permit to operate a motor vehicle in accordance with the provisions of subsection D of § 16.1-278.9 or subsection E of § 18.2-271.1.

C. Any alcoholic beverages purchased in violation of this section shall be deemed contraband and forfeited to the Commonwealth in accordance with § 4.1-338.