The alcohol and liquor laws of each state in the U.S. set the minimum drinking age as 21 years of age. A person under the age of 21 who is caught drinking can usually be subjected to legal consequences. Underage drinking consequences typically include misdemeanor charges, which are punishable by fines and a short jail time. There can be exceptions to underage drinking depending on the state.

Exceptions to the Minimum Drinking Age

Some states may allow exceptions to minimum drinking age laws. There are 8 different types of situations that may present exceptions in which an underage person can consume alcohol. These are:

  • Parental Consent: 29 states allow underage drinking with parental consent on private, non-alcohol selling premises: AK, CO, CT, DE, GA, IL, IA, KS, LA, ME, MD, MA, MN, MS, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, OH, OK, OR, SC, TX, VA, WA, WI, WY
  • Private Setting: 6 states allow underage drinking without parental consent on private, non-alcohol selling premises: LA, NE, NV, NJ, OK, SC
  • Religious Ceremony: 26 states allow underage drinking if done during a religious ceremony: AZ, CO, CT, DE, GA, HI, IL, LA, MD, MI, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, ND, OH, OR, SC, SD, TN, UT, WA, WY
  • Medical Purposes: 16 states allow underage drinking if done for medical purposes (i.e., with a doctor’s prescription): AK, AZ, CO, CT, GA, IA, LA, MT, NE, NV, NJ, NC, OH, UT, WA, WY
  • Government Work Purposes: 4 states allow underage drinking when done for government work purposes (such as when working with an undercover police officer): MI, MS, OR, SC
  • Educational Purposes: 11 states allow underage drinking for educational purposes: CO, FL, IL, MI, MO, NJ, NY, NC, RI, SC, VT
  • Emergency Call: 17 states allow an underage person who has been drinking to place an emergency 911 call on behalf of another underage drinker: CA, CO, DE, DC, IN, KY, MI, MN, NJ, NY, NC, ND, OK, PA, TX, UT, VT, WA
  • Alcohol-selling Premises: 10 states allow underage drinking while on premises that sell alcohol, with parental approval: CT, KS, LA, MA, MS, NV, OH, TX, WI, WY

Regardless of these exceptions, all other drinking laws apply to minors, such as sales of alcohol and DUI laws.

Do I Need a Lawyer for an Issue with Underage Drinking?

Underage drinking violations can lead to some very serious legal penalties and consequences. You may need to hire a criminal lawyer if you or a loved one needs assistance with the laws in your state. Your attorney can provide you with advice for your case and can also represent you if you need to appear in court. A qualified attorney can advise you of your legal rights according to the rules in your jurisdiction.