Friday, October 19, 2012

Underage Drinking in a Public Park

John, 16, was bored on a Sunday so he decided to call his best friend Sam, 17, to hang out. They decided to make their Sunday a little bit more adventurous. They went to a bar and asked for a drink but of course, the bartender asked for ID and they ended up getting kicked out.
Sam decided to go home, take his father’s bottle of alcohol, go to a park and drink it there with John.
While they were drinking, a cop was passing by. The cop noticed something suspicious so he decided to check it out. As the cop was approaching, Sam and John attempted to hide their alcohol because they knew they could get in a lot of trouble.
Officer: “Hello, I was just passing by and saw that you were drinking something covered in a paper bag. May I ask what that was?”
Sam: “Nothing, officer
Officer: “How old are you two?”
Sam: “17”
John: “16”
Officer: “Can I please see the bottle you two were drinking out of?”
John, being extremely scared, blurted out, “Sorry officer, we were drinking alcohol, but we are sorry,” and immediately handed the officer the opened bottle of alcohol.
What legal issues do John and Sam face?
Underage Drinking:
According to ss.30(8) of the Liquor LicenseAct, it is illegal for a person under the age of 19 to have, consume, attempt to purchase or otherwise obtain alcohol. As both John and Sam are under the legal drinking age of 19, they are breaking the law. 

There are very few exceptions to the underage drinking prohibition: Section ss.30 (9) of the Liquor License Act, says that it is legal for a person aged 18 to be in possession of liquor during the course of their employment, where it is authorized. Also, under s. 30(13) it is not illegal for kids under age 19 to be in possession of alcohol IF their parents supply the alcohol to them at home. Clearly these exceptions do not apply to John and Sam in this situation.

The police officer could charge John and Sam under the Liquor License Act and they will be made to appear in Ontario Provincial Offences Court.

Public Drinking:

According to ss.31 (2) of the Liquor License Act, no person shall have or consume liquor in any place other than: a residence, premises with a liquor license or permit, or a private place.  Sam and John could be charged under this section too and be made to attend Provincial Offences Court.

Municipal By-laws:

In addition to breaking Ontario provincial laws, John and Sam may be in violation of bylaws of their municipality. Bylaws are laws created by a city or a town that all residents, regardless of age, must follow.  

For example, chapter 608-8 of the Toronto Municipal Code of Parks says that while in a park, no person shall consume, serve or sell alcoholic beverages unless in designated areas, authorized by permit, and with the approval of the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario. None of those exceptions exist in this situation for Sam and John. Additionally, chapter 608-9 of the Toronto Municipal Code says that unless authorized by permit, no person shall use, enter or gather in a park between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.  John and Sam could be given a ticket by a police officer or municipal offences officer for violating these laws.

The scenario for this post was written by Diana Rozo a JFCY volunteer on the PLE Team. The legal info was written by Lauren Grossman, a first-year law student at U of T who is volunteering at JFCY through her law school’s Pro Bono Students Canada program. All info was reviewed by a JFCY staff lawyer.

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