On it’s face, a “Minor in Possession” charge in Arkansas is pretty simple. The defendant has to be under the age of 21 and be in possession of alcohol.

Under the statute, possession can be as simple as having it in your body (which can be determined by the portable breath test) or admitting ownership of a nearby can of beer. However, the defenses are a little more complicated than that.


Pictured: Future Lawyer

Possession Defined

The main defense is how exactly the law defines possession. In one case, Kastl v. State (1990), the Supreme Court of Arkansas was presented with the following uncontested facts:

(1) beer cans were found laying between the vehicle in question and another parked vehicle;
(2) a six-pack of Coors Light beer was found lying inside the vehicle in the hatch area behind the defendant, and according to one officer, all the defendant would have had to have done was “just turn around and reached and grabbed it [the beer];” and
(3) the appellant had a smell of intoxicating alcohol about her person.

The Supreme Court of Arkansas ruled that this was not sufficient evidence to prove that the defendant had constructive possession of the alcohol! Note, the law has since changed to include alcohol in your body but the principal remains the same. Other case law, (Bradley, 347 Ark. 518, 65 S.W.3d 874) has affirmed that joint occupancy of a vehicle, standing alone, is not sufficient to establish possession or joint possession.

In 2015 Arkansas granted criminal immunity as a defense to certain minor in possession scenarios.

Remember the diplomatic immunity from Lethal Weapon 2? It is just like that but all you have to do is call an ambulance.

Remember the diplomatic immunity from Lethal Weapon 2? It is just like that but all you have to do is call an ambulance.

If a group of minors call for emergency medical services and wait around to assist the emergency units then they will be granted immunity from criminal charges for minor in possession of alcohol. Additionally, the recipient of those medical services and also be immune from minor in possession charges. This immunity does not protect those who call for emergency services after the police arrive.

This is one of two Lethal Weapon related defenses. The other is called the “I’m too old for this s***”, where you try to prove that you were over 21 years of age.

Other Defenses to Minor In Possession of Alcohol in Arkansas

There are many typical criminal defenses to this type of charge. Such as whether or not the police even had a right to pull you over (if they did not have the right then they can’t use the alcohol they find subsequent to the illegal stop against you), go into your dorm room, or even question you without first giving you your Miranda Rights (if not then in some cases they can’t use your admission of ownership of the alcohol against you).

Penalties for Minor in Possession in Arkansas

There is no possibility of jail time for this offense. There is an automatic suspension of your Driver’s License for 60 days unless you try to appeal it within 7 days of receiving the citation. The court costs will be $100, the court fines $20, and the fine will be $100-500

Although your driver’s license is suspended, you can still get a restricted driver’s license to go certain places at certain times. Even after the suspension period is over, you will need to take an alcohol class to get your license back. You may also be asked to take some alcohol classes.

If you are a citizen of a different state, Arkansas will try to suspend your license, but they may not be successful. Although 45 states have agreed to suspend your license if Arkansas suspends it, practically that is not always the case. You will still be unable to drive in Arkansas, but the other states may not enforce it or even know about it. However, in order to get this charge expunged off your record you will need to complete the class and pay $125 to have your license reinstated in Arkansas.

Below you will find the relevant parts of the statute and the case law that was referenced in this blog:

Kastl v. State, 303 Ark. 358, 360, 796 S.W.2d 848, 849 (1990)

I often like to look up (Facebook stalk) famous criminal defendants on Facebook, I think I found Tracy Kastl from this case: Tracy Kristl Facebook

Arkansas Code Annotated § 3-3-203
Purchase or possession by minor

(a)(1) It is unlawful for any person under twenty-one (21) years of age to purchase or have in his or her possession any intoxicating liquor, wine, or beer.
(2) For the purposes of this section, intoxicating liquor, wine, or beer in the body of a person under twenty-one (21) years of age is deemed to be in his or her possession.

(c) A person eighteen (18) years of age or older violating this section is guilty of a violation and upon conviction shall be subject to a fine of not less than one hundred dollars ($100) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500).
(d) In addition to the penalties provided in this section, the trial judge or magistrate may impose the following penalty or penalties or any combination thereof:
(1) Require a person eighteen (18) years of age or older but under twenty-one (21) years of age to write themes or essays on intoxicating liquors, wine, or beer; and
(2) Place a person eighteen (18) years of age or older but under twenty-one (21) years of age under probationary conditions as determined by the court in its reasonable discretion designed as a reasonable and suitable preventive and educational safeguard to prevent future violations of this section by the person.
(e)(1) In addition to the fine authorized by subsection (c) of this section, at the time of arrest of a person eighteen (18) years of age or older for violation of the provisions of subsection (a) of this section, the arrested person shall immediately surrender his or her license, permit, or other evidence of driving privilege to the arresting law enforcement officer as provided in § 5-65-402.
(2)(A) The Office of Driver Services or its designated official shall suspend or revoke the driving privilege of the arrested person or shall suspend any nonresident driving privilege of the arrested person, as provided in § 5-65-402.
(B) The period of suspension or revocation shall be based on the offense that caused the surrender of the arrested person’s license, permit, or other evidence of driving privilege as described in subdivision (e)(1) of this section and the number of any previous offenses as follows:
(i) Suspension for sixty (60) days for a first offense under subsection (a) of this section;
(ii) Suspension for one hundred twenty (120) days for a second offense under subsection (a) of this section; and
(iii) Suspension for one (1) year for a third or subsequent offense under subsection (a) of this section.

(g)(1) A person under twenty-one (21) years of age is immune from criminal prosecution under subsection (a) of this section if:
(A) The person:
(i) Requested emergency medical assistance in response to a medical emergency of another person;
(ii) Remained on the scene until the emergency medical assistance arrived; and
(iii) Cooperated with emergency medical assistance providers and law enforcement personnel during the medical emergency;
(B) The person is the recipient of emergency medical assistance requested under subdivision (g)(1)(A) of this section; or
(C) The person acted in concert with the person initiating contact for emergency medical assistance and met the requirements of subdivisions (g)(1)(A)(ii) and (iii) of this section.
(2) This subsection does not apply if the request for emergency medical assistance does not occur until after law enforcement personnel have arrived at the scene of the medical emergency.
(3) The immunity from criminal prosecution provided under this section shall not in any way affect a law enforcement officer’s or court’s probable cause determination in regard to another criminal offense.

What’s the average offer when charged with Minor in Possession of Alcohol in Fayetteville/Fort Smith District Court or another county in Arkansas? Call us and find out: 479-782-1125