Minnesota Criminal Law: Underage Alcohol Consumption Laws

September 14th, 2009

How Underage Consumption Laws Work In Minnesota 

With many 18-22 year olds heading to – or back to – colleges throughout the state in the next couple of weeks, dorm life kicks back into gear.  Regardless of whether the campus is dry or not, chances are, most college-bound individuals will encounter alcohol in a social setting this fall whether as a guest or a host.  Minnesota Underage Consumption laws are clear: Drinking alcohol while under the age of 21 is a crime, and so is providing alcohol to someone under the age or 21 – either directly or indirectly. 

Here is a brief outline of what the Minnesota law says about underage consumption, and what you can do to ensure you don’t get charged with underage consumption or furnishing to a minor. 

1.  It is a Felony to… 

Under Minnesota Statute 340A.701 subdivision 1, clause 4, it is a felony “for a person other than a licensed retailer of alcoholic beverages… to sell, barter, furnish, or give alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 years of age if that person becomes intoxicated and causes or suffers death or great bodily harm.  This is known as the Brockway Bill, or “Kevin’s Law” and it is the only Social Host Liability law Minnesota has.  In other words, there is no Social Host Liability imposed on hosts who provide alcohol to their guests if their guests are over 21 years old. 

2.  It is a Gross Misdemeanor to… 

Section 340A.702 states that it is a gross misdemeanor for anyone to “sell, give, furnish, or in any way procure for another alcoholic beverages for the use of an obviously intoxicated person,” (this language is from section 340A.502, to which section 702 refers); …or “to induce a person under the age of 21 years to purchase or procure any alcoholic beverage, or to lend or knowingly permit the use of the person’s driver’s license, permit, Minnesota identification card, or other form of identification by a person under the age of 21 years for the purpose of purchasing or attempting to purchase an alcoholic beverage.”  (This language is located in section 340A.503, subd. 2 (1) and (3).) 

3.  If you are under the age of 21, it is illegal to… 

Minnesota Statute Section 340A.503 states that it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 years old to consume any alcoholic beverages.  However, the statute also states that it is an affirmative defense to a violation of this clause if the defendant can prove that the defendant consumed the alcoholic beverage in the household of the defendant’s parent or guardian and with the consent of the parent or guardian. 

If you are under the age of 21 years, it is also illegal to purchase or attempt to purchase any alcoholic beverage unless under the supervision of a responsible person over the age of 21 for training, education, or research purposes. It is also illegal for a person under the age of 21 to possess any alcoholic beverage with the intent to consume it at a place other than the household of the person’s parent or guardian. It is important to know also that possession at a place other than the household of the parent or guardian creates a rebuttable presumption of intent to consume it at a place other than the household of the parent or guardian. 

Finally, if you are under the age of 21, it is a misdemeanor crime to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while consuming alcoholic beverages, or after having consumed alcoholic beverages while there is physical evidence of the consumption present in the person’s body, under Minnesota Statute Section 169A.33.  This is known as the “Not a Drop Law,” or Zero Tolerance, because the only legal blood alcohol content for a driver who is under the age of 21 is 0.0. 

4.  If you are over the age of 18, you may… 

If you are at least 18 years old, you may be employed as a server or a bartender in an establishment that has a license to sell alcoholic beverages.  This means you may “handle, transport or sell beer, wine or spirits in a liquor store or off-premises establishment

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