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I am currently a college freshman living in a suite style dorm. As freshman like to do, two of my three roommates like to party and drink. At first there were just small gatherings, but as of late these parties have been getting bigger.

My main concern is that we are all underaged and sharing this dorm. While I have never touched alcohol and don't take part in these parties, can I still be held responsible for my roommates and possibly be charged with possession of alcohol as a minor?

My college's code of conduct only states that students may not be under the influence or in the possession of alcoholic beverages. And all of my research into state law does not seem to define what constitutes possession.

Basically I want to know:

1.What constitutes possession of alcohol by a minor in Texas?

2.Would I be held responsible for alcohol found in a common area?

3.Is there anything I can do in this situation to protect myself from charges should my roommates get in trouble?

1

Researching this interesting subject, I found this website that states:

A charge of Minor in Possession (M.I.P.) means that the defendant, being a person under the age of 21 years, has been issued a citation by a police officer or Texas Alcohol Beverage Control Officer for being illegally in possession, ownership, or control of an alcoholic beverage. The principal element of this crime, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, is possession, ownership, or control of an alcoholic beverage.

Minors are at risk of an M.I.P. citation at a party, nightclub, or while riding in a vehicle when alcohol is present. A minor can be in the proximity of alcohol which belongs to another person, but cannot touch, hold, transport, attempt to purchase, consume, or have any contact with alcohol.

You also have to be careful about constructive possession that can be interpreted as

  • a minor sits at a table with several people who are drinking from a pitcher of beer with cups scattered about;
  • a minor gathers empty beer cans and cups to discard as trash;
  • a minor holds a friend’s beer as the friend puts on their jacket; or
  • a minor uses a beer can as a spittoon for tobacco juice.

Since you live with them, you are liable if you participate in the parties containing alcoholic beverages.

2.Would I be held responsible for alcohol found in a common area?

As the law states, you must be in possession, ownership or in control. It is unlikely, but possible for you to be charged with the ownership if you are alone and there are beverages around, leaving room for interpretation that you own the beverages. But as stated, proof beyond reasonable doubt is a burden for the State.

3.Is there anything I can do in this situation to protect myself from charges should my roommates get in trouble?

Keeping your hands off any beverages would be a good start. Although I doubt that there would be fingerprint scanning on such a small matter, it's better be safe and have it as leverage.

Another helpful point would be to have a trustful friend that could vouch/testify for the veracity of your testimony in not being a person that drinks any alcoholic beverages.

Last, but not least, during a criminal investigation, the police will always attempt to get to the truth of the facts, which is the truth that can be proved. I would interpret it as being a good choice to not obstruct the justice and tell anything you know about who bought, who were drinking who organized, etc. Somehow, I think that being innocent, cooperative and not having alcohol in your hands would be safe to get any charges dropped.

It is important to note that I'm not a lawyer and that's just my opinion about the theorization of the facts.

On a side note, there is also exception to the rules and one that may be important is the one that you request medical assistance for somebody.

Emergency medical assistance

A minor can avoid liability for violating the possession and consumption laws if the minor requested emergency medical assistance for someone with a possible alcohol overdose. To qualify for this protection, the minor must have:

  • been the first person to make the call for help
  • remained on the scene until medical help arrived, and
  • cooperated with medical and law enforcement personnel. (Texas Stat. and Code Ann. Sections 106.05(d) &106.04(e).)

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