Underage Drinking South Carolina

Say you want to stop to buy beer before heading to a party while underage. Maybe you get caught, either successfully OR unsuccessfully, trying to buy beer with a fake ID. Maybe you get caught by the cops with beer in your car.

You have a problem. There are serious consequences related to underage drinking in South Carolina.

Here is the truth behind five myths about underage drinking.

1. Myth: It isn’t illegal to try to buy alcohol with a fake ID. It’s only illegal if you actually buy it and then get caught.


If you’re under 21 and attempt to purchase alcohol using a fake ID, you are lying about your age, which is illegal—regardless of whether or not you actually purchase the alcohol.

Misrepresenting age is a misdemeanor in South Carolina and will cost you a fine of $100 to $200, up to 30 days in jail or both. You’ll also be asked to complete at least eight hours of an alcohol education or prevention program, which may cost you up to $150.

2. Myth: If I’m an underage passenger in my underage friend’s car and the cops find alcohol in the car, I can’t be charged with anything since I was just a passenger.


It’s all about “possession” under legal principles.

If you’re underage and possess alcohol, you can be charged with “underage possession of alcohol.” What if you are somewhere or in a car and others, of age or underage are in possession of alcohol? “Possession” is easily determined if, for example, you have a beer in your hand. However, under the law, there is also “constructive” possession.

If you have knowledge of the presence of an alcoholic beverage and are in a position to have dominion and control over it, an officer can make a (constructive) possession charge. Of course, if you have no knowledge of its presence, such as it being in the trunk of the car in which you are a passenger, a possession underage case should not be made against you.

Just like misrepresenting your age, you’ll face a fine of $100 to $200, up to 30 days in jail or both. The eight hours of an alcohol education or prevention program, which may cost you up to $150, also applies.

3. Myth: If I’m underage and the cops think I’ve been drinking when I haven’t, I should still refuse a breathalyzer test the officer offers me.


To be charged with underage possession of alcohol by in South Carolina, there must be some evidence of consumption. Our law provides that if an officer has probable cause to believe that you are underage and that you have consumed alcohol, he may request that you submit to testing by any available alcohol screening test approved by SLED. You are also given the right to ask for this testing. If you know for a fact that you haven’t consumed even a drop of alcohol, and an officer believes that you have, politely ask for a breathalyzer test. As the law provides that the officer may request as opposed to must request a breath test, there is no penalty in the law for refusing to do so.

Just like we discussed in myths #1 and #2, you’ll be hit with a fine of $100 to $200, up to 30 days in jail or both. And again, you will have to complete eight hours of an alcohol education or prevention program, which costs up to $150.

4. Myth: It’s illegal for an underage person to drink alcohol in ALL situations.


There are some instances in which underage drinking is legal in South Carolina. For instance, an underage student enrolled in an accredited culinary program may be required to taste alcohol as part of the curriculum, which is legal as long as an authorized adult instructor is supervising.

Additionally, consuming alcohol in your parent or guardian’s home or for a religious ceremony is legal as long as the alcohol is legally purchased.

5. Myth: An underage DUI charge isn’t a big deal since my record will only follow me until I become an adult.


If you are underage and are caught driving a vehicle after consuming alcoholic beverages, and the office has probable cause to believe you have been drinking, you can be detained and taken to jail for breath testing in South Carolina. If, at jail, you refuse to take a breath test, your license can be suspended by the officer-on the spot.

If the breathalyzer (Datamaster) reports that your breath reading is 0.02 of 1% or greater, you will be given a ticket for DUI under age 21 and subject to suspension of your license. The length of the suspension will depend on your Datamaster reading or refusal to take the test and if you have a prior DUI related conviction with three years prior. But it doesn’t stop there. If your license is suspended,you must also complete a state-sponsored Alcohol and Drug Safety Action Program (ADSAP).

Offense # BAC > 0.02% Refused breathalyzer
First 3 months 6 months
Second or subsequent 6 months 1 year


Regardless of your age, an officer can elect to charge you with DUI or DUAC (Driving with an Unlawful Alcohol Concentration). But if he elects to suspend your license for a reading of .02 of one percent or more, our law provides that he cannot charge you with DUI or DUAC. The officer effectively “elects” when he chooses to suspend your license under the under 21 DUI law.

Need help with an underage drinking charge in SC?

Underage drinking can be a serious issue, but many teens think these charges don’t matter because they’ll show up only in their juvenile records. Big mistake.

Don’t let this myth or any other myths about underage drinking cause you to make a misguided mistaken that could follow you for the rest of your life.

If you or your son or daughter is facing underage drinking charges, Kulp Law can help.

Call 843-853-3310 for a fee-free, face-to-face, detailed case review or complete our online contact form.

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