Furnishing alcohol to a minor — that is, giving alcohol to or purchasing it for a person under 21 years of age — is a misdemeanor in California.  Violating this law subjects you to jail time and fines.

This law makes it a crime to:

  1. furnish (that is, sell, provide or give) — or causing to be sold, furnished, or given away — any alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21;
  2. being a person under 21 and either
  3. a) purchasing an alcoholic beverage, or
  4. b) consuming an alcoholic beverage in a place where alcohol is sold; and/or being an on-sale licensee and permitting a person who is under 21 to consume an alcoholic beverage on the premises, even if the licensee doesn’t have actual knowledge that the individual is under 21 years of age.


There are a number of ways to violate Business and Professions Code 25658.  Here are some of the more common violations.  These include undercover operations using “decoys” designed to “catch”

  1. individuals who furnish alcohol to minors, (in front of the supermarket, someone may ask you to just purchase a six pack and give you the money to do so)
  2. Underage individuals who try to purchase or consume alcoholic beverages.

Undercover operations to arrest individuals who furnish alcohol to minors

One of the most common ways to violate California’s “furnishing alcohol to a minor” law is to buy alcohol for a person under 21.  This violation frequently occurs at grocery / liquor stores near college campuses, high Schools or even Junior High Schools

The most common scenario is that an underage individual will give you money and ask that you please buy him/her some alcohol.  Believing this is really “no big deal” or that someone once did that for you when you were young, you agree and make the purchase.  As soon as you bring the alcohol to the minor, the cops “bust” you and end up arresting you because of one of the following two reasons:

  1. They were using the minor as one of their agents or a youthful looking officer in an undercover sting or decoy type of operation, or
  2. They observed you furnishing the alcohol to the minor.

Legal Defenses

Fortunately, there are a variety of legal defenses to Business and Professions Code 25658 California’s law against furnishing alcohol to a minor that your North Bay California criminal defense lawyer could present on your behalf.

 Mistake of fact

Perhaps the most common is based on a mistake of fact. “Mistake of fact” is not historically a defense that applies to strict liability offenses such as furnishing alcohol to a minor.

A “strict liability” offense is one where the prosecution doesn’t need to prove that the defendant had criminal intent in order to secure a conviction.  Business and Professions Code 25658 is a strict liability offense.  This is because the prosecution does not need to prove that the defendant knew the individual to whom he/she provided alcohol was underage.  The judge/jury can convict the defendant of this offense regardless of that knowledge.

Penalties, Punishment, and Sentencing

If you are convicted of furnishing alcohol to a minor, you face a maximum $1,000 fine and will be required to perform no less than 24 hours of community service in either an alcohol or drug treatment facility or at a county coroner’s office.  Our attorneys have been able to get Diversion for our first time defendants.  It is advisable to discuss this option with your North Bay legal Counsel at Fiumara & Milligan Law, PC at your earliest convenience.

Please note that is this is your second offense of furnishing alcohol to a minor the penalties, fines and jail time increase and consulting with counsel is advisable.

If you are convicted of furnishing alcohol to a minor and that minor consumes the alcohol and thereby causes either him/herself or another person to suffer great bodily injury or death, you face a six-month to one-year county jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

Prosecutors also have the discretion of filing additional charges against you besides BP 25658 depending on the circumstance in your case.  So if you told one of your son’s friend that it is ok for the minors to drink alcohol in your home in ‘your presence’ where you can supervise them the prosecutors could charge you with violating Penal Code 272 PC California’s “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” law.  If convicted of this offense, you face a maximum one-year county jail sentence and a maximum fine of $2,500.


The last thing we want to see is one of our clients receiving a misdemeanor conviction for a crime such as this which may affect their record, license, and or their future employment prospects.  So make an appointment with one of our very experienced and highly skilled North Bay California criminal defense attorneys at your earliest convenience at:  (707) 571-8600 in SANTA ROSA and (415) 492-4507 in the SAN RAFAEL area.

“The Right Attorney Makes all the Difference.”