Moonshine Laws

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What is Moonshine?

The term “moonshine” is used to refer to several different kinds of alcohol. Historically, moonshine meant liquor that was made and distilled at home. The term “bathtub gin” was a reference to home-brewed moonshine when alcohol was illegal in the United States during the era of Prohibition. Moonshine is typically made out of some kind of corn mash.

Today, people make artisan moonshine out of a sense of nostalgia and preference for taste. These can be sold in liquor stores or brewed just for personal use. However, distilling alcohol at home, even for personal use, is illegal under federal law.

In 2010, legal moonshine stills opened in some parts of the south, including South Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama. These produced legal moonshine for sale and distribution. The product became quite popular for its representation of cultural history. Moonshine occupies a powerful place in America’s imagination, and its renewed popularity in the 21st century provides tourism revenue for local sellers.

Is Moonshine Illegal?

There are federal and state regulations restricting any creation of alcohol intended for public distribution and sale. While it is legal under federal law to own a still of any size without a permit, a permit is required to manufacture alcohol with the still. It does not matter how big the still is.

Stills create real hazards and risks, which is why they are heavily regulated. A federal distilled spirits permit is needed in order to legally produce alcohol meant for sale and distribution. These permits are meant for large manufacturers. They are expensive and difficult to obtain. A Federal Fuel Alcohol Permit can be obtained for no cost, but it is intended for creating alcohol for uses other than ingesting. 

Is Moonshine Illegal in my State?

State laws vary widely regarding the legality of home distilling. In some states it is illegal to own a still while in other states it is not. Sometimes it is legal to own the still, but you may be charged a small fine for creating and producing alcohol. Still titles and permits may be required if the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau requests them. It is illegal everywhere to sell alcohol to minors.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you have been charged with home distilling, you should consult a criminal defense attorney right away. A lawyer will help advise you of your options and devise your best case, and represent you during plea discussions and in court.

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Last Modified: 07-01-2016 11:24 AM PDT

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