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Posted on February 19, 2016 in Juvenile Crimes

Underage Drinking Exceptions: How Do State Laws Vary on Underage Drinking?

In the United States, general alcohol laws prevent individuals under the age of 21 from purchasing or consuming alcohol. However, 45 states have underage drinking exceptions. Five states, Arkansas, Alabama, New Hampshire, West Virginia, and Idaho, have no exceptions.

You may wonder what exactly individuals under 21 can do legally. Before you let teens have a glass of champagne on New Year’s or a beer on the 4th of July, take a moment to review your state laws and exceptions. The Alcohol Policy Information System website provides a handy guide that adults and minors can use to learn more about alcohol laws across the country.

Arizona Specific Drinking Laws

In Arizona, underage drinking laws:

  • Prohibit minors from possessing alcohol
  • Prohibit minors from consuming alcohol
  • Prohibit minors from purchasing alcohol (A minor may purchase as part of a law enforcement operation)
  • Prohibit adults from providing alcohol to minors
  • Allow servers and bartenders to serve alcohol at age 19
  • Allow 16 year olds to sell in off-premises settings, as long as a supervisor is present (i.e. a 16 year old can check you out at an alcohol-selling grocery store)
  • Prohibit minors from driving with any BAC over 0.0
  • Prohibit social hosts (the adult party host) from knowingly allowing alcohol possession or consumption by minors on the premises
  • Allow consumption of alcohol for religious purposes
  • Allow consumption for medical purposes

Underage Drinking Exceptions to General Laws Around the Country

Here are the exceptions to the drinking age in states around the country.

  • 29 states allow minors to consume alcohol at a private, non-selling location with parental consent. The parent must be present on location and consent to underage drinking.
    • Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
  • 26 states allow minors to consume alcohol for religious purposes.
    • Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
  • 16 states allow minors to consume alcohol for medicinal purposes.
    • Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
  • 10 states allow minors to drink at a selling-location with parental approval.
    • Connecticut, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, Wyoming
  • 6 states allow minors to consume alcohol at a private, non-selling location without parental consent.
    • Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina

This overview is not a comprehensive view of alcohol laws in each state. For more information about laws in your area, consult an attorney who specializes in alcohol-related cases or carefully review your state’s legislation.

The Complexity of Underage Alcohol Laws

Drinking laws change from state to state over time, and some laws may conflict. For instance, some states may prohibit possession or consumption, but have no laws prohibiting a minor from being physically intoxicated (unless he or she is driving). Even if you know the laws, prior court rulings in cases may complicate certain situations.

If you want to allow a minor to drink for religious reasons, for example, you must be able to prove the minor was not drinking for other reasons. Several large glasses of wine may not fit the religious reasons exception.

Many state laws have loopholes, whereas others have strictly outlined the legally approved circumstances for underage drinking. If you have any questions about your rights and underage drinking, err on the side of caution.

If you are facing an underage drinking-related case in Arizona, reach out to a Phoenix criminal defense lawyer at the Orent Law Offices for a free consultation.