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Bringing Alcohol into a Penal Institution – BPC 25603

Posted by Dmitry Gorin | Oct 03, 2022

The State of California has stringent rules about alcohol on the grounds of its correctional facilities.

Bringing Alcohol into a Penal Institution – BPC 25603
it's a felony offense to bring any alcoholic beverage into a California penal institution.

In fact, according to California Business & Professions Code 25603 BPC, it is a felony offense to bring any beverage containing alcohol into a penal institution.

Penal institutions include city jails, county jails, state prisons, juvenile detention centers, and other facilities where people are incarcerated or detained. If you are charged with this crime, you could face up to three years in jail if convicted, along with a hefty fine.

This statute can be charged when correctional officers, visitors, or inmates are caught with alcohol in jail or prison grounds. BPC 25603 says, “Everyone who is not authorized by law, which brings into any state prison, city or county jail, or reformatory in this state, or within the grounds belonging to any such institution, any alcoholic beverage is guilty of a felony.”

 Thus, a “penal institution” includes a state prison, county jail, city jail, and a reformatory. BPC 25603 is very simple and very strict. It prohibits any beverage from being brought onto the grounds of a correctional facility containing alcohol in any quantity. This includes:

  • Liquor;
  • Beer;
  • Wine;
  • Wine coolers;
  • Mixers containing alcohol;
  • Non-alcoholic beverages that have been "spiked" with alcohol.

This law does not make any differentiations as to willful intent. If you bring alcohol onto the grounds of a penal institution, even by accident, you may still be charged under BPC 25603. Our California criminal defense lawyers will examine this law in greater detail below.

What Are Some Examples?

EXAMPLE 1: Daisy is visiting her brother in state prison and brings a bottle of wine as a gift for a prison guard she knows who works there.

Penalties for Bringing Alcohol into a Penal Institution
BPC 25603 is a felony crime with harsh penalties.

Daisy can be charged with a felony even though she didn't intend the wine for an inmate.

EXAMPLE 2: Geoff is visiting his cousin in county jail and tries to sneak in some vodka poured into a water bottle. Geoff has committed a felony under BPC 25603.

EXAMPLE 3: Tim forgets to dispose of his half-drunk bottle of beer before entering the front door of the municipal jail. Tim could be charged with a crime under BPC 25603 even though his actions weren't intentional.

EXAMPLE 4: Georgia is a guard at the county jail. For a birthday lunch for one of the fellow guards, she brings a pitcher of punch spiked with gin. Georgia has committed a crime under California law.

What are the Related Crimes?

BPC 25603 is not the only California crime related to bringing alcohol or other prohibited items into correctional facilities. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be charged with additional crimes, such as the following: 

  • Bringing a controlled substance into a jail or prison (Penal Code 4573 PC). Just as it is a crime to bring alcohol into a correctional facility, it's also a felony to bring any controlled substance, including both prescription and illicit drugs onto jail or prison grounds;
  • Bringing contraband into a jail or prison (Penal Code 4573.5 PC). This makes it a crime to knowingly bring contraband into jail or prison, whether for yourself or someone else; "Contraband" in this case includes alcohol and any drug that is not a controlled substance (e.g., over-the-counter medications;
  • Rescuing a Prisoner (Penal Code 4550 PC). It's a crime under this law to help someone escape prison, jail, or from the lawful custody of an officer.  If the escaped prisoner faced a possible death sentence, then the perpetrator who helped them two, three, or four years in state prison. Otherwise, they would face up to one year in county jail;
  • Possession of a controlled substance (Health and Safety Code 11350 HS);
  • Possession of drugs for sale (Health and Safety Code 11351 HS);
  • Possession of methamphetamine (Health and Safety Code 11377(a) HS).

What Are the Penalties for BPC 25603?

BPC 25603 is always charged as a felony offense. If you are convicted of bringing alcohol into a penal institution in any quantity, you could face:

  • up to 3 years in county jail, and
  • a fine of up to $10,000.

However, judges have the latitude to take specific circumstances and facts of the case into account when imposing a sentence. In some cases, for example, the judge will issue a sentence of formal probation instead of jail time.

What Are the Common Defenses for This Crime?

Alcohol in a penal institution is considered a security risk, which is why violations are taken so seriously and sometimes punished severely.

Defenses for Bringing Alcohol into a Penal Institution
There are some common defenses for this crime.

However, that doesn't mean there aren't some valid defenses at your disposal if you're charged with this crime. Common defenses for bringing alcohol onto jail or prison grounds are discussed below.

Perhaps we can argue that the beverage did not contain alcohol. Prosecutors must prove that the substance you brought on the premises had alcohol in it. As suspected, you cannot be convicted if it is found not to have contained alcohol.

Perhaps we can argue that you were unaware that the drink contained alcohol. Although prosecutors don't necessarily have to prove this crime's intent, the judge may consider accidental violations. Perhaps you brought in a beverage you believed was alcohol-free—or someone shoved a beer can into your coat pocket without your knowledge.

Perhaps we can argue that you were coerced into a confession. If police apply undue pressure to get you to confess to a crime, your admission can be rendered inadmissible in court.

Contact us to review the details and legal options if you were accused of violating Business & Professions Code 25603 BPC.

Perhaps we can negotiate with the prosecution for reduced charges or a case dismissal. Perhaps through prefiling negotiations, we can persuade the District Attorney not to file formal criminal charges in the first place, known as a “DA reject.” Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles County, California. You can contact our law firm via phone or the contact form.

About the Author

Dmitry Gorin

Dmitry Gorin is a licensed attorney, who has been involved in criminal trial work and pretrial litigation since 1994. Before becoming partner in Eisner Gorin LLP, Mr. Gorin was a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Los Angeles Courts for more than ten years. As a criminal tri...

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