Liquor laws govern the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. Each state has its own liquor laws, which may even differ from region to region within one state.
For instance, the sale of alcohol in business zones might be highly regulated; the sale of alcohol may be prohibited on Sundays or during certain times of the day. In some states, hard liquor sales are limited to special stores with limited operations.
Generally speaking, liquor laws govern the following issues:
- Who Can Sell Alcohol: Generally, a person must have a license or permit to sell alcohol;
- Who Can Buy Alcohol: A person must be 21 or over 21 to buy alcohol. A person must be over 21 to consume alcohol. Oddly, in some states, a person might be able to buy alcoholic beverages at 18 but cannot consume them until they are 21. Using fake identification to buy alcohol is a criminal offense in all states;
- Age at Which Consumption Is Legal: For example, all states prohibit providing alcohol to people under 21. Some states have exceptions for providing alcohol to minors as part of religious activities or if a parent, guardian, or spouse consents. Among states that have an exception related to consent, the application of the exception is often limited to specific locations, such as private locations, private homes, or in the parent or guardian’s home.
- In other words, a parent could not consent to their child under 21 consuming alcohol in a restaurant or bar. No state allows anyone other than a family member to provide alcohol to a minor on private property;
- When and Where Liquor Can Be Sold: These laws vary by state. For example, in New York, beer can be sold in grocery stores, but wine and hard liquor can only be sold in liquor stores. New York recently legalized the ordering of alcohol online and delivery of it to home.
- From Monday to Saturday, beer can be sold24 hours per day. Wine and liquor can be sold from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. On Sundays, beer can be sold 24 hours, while wine and liquor can only be sold from 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Other states have comparable laws that prescribe when and where alcoholic beverages can be sold;
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI): All states make it a crime to drive while intoxicated by alcohol or drug. It is also a crime in most states to drive with an open container of alcohol in the car.
- Licenses to Sell and Serve Alcohol: In all states, a person must have a license to sell or serve alcoholic beverages. It can be challenging to obtain a license to sell or serve alcohol. In Minnesota, the requirements for obtaining a license are as follows:
- A person must be of good moral character;
- A person must be 21 years of age or older;
- A person must not have had a license revoked within the prior 5 years;
- A person must not have been convicted of a felony within the prior five years or of a willful violation of a federal or state law or local ordinance governing the manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession for sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages;
- The Minnesota agency that enforces the licensing process, the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division, may require the person who wants to obtain a license to provide a set of fingerprints that may be sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for a criminal history check;
- Consumption of Alcohol in Public: Many states ban carrying open containers of alcohol in public or consuming alcohol in public. Many more ban carrying an open container in a motor vehicle. For example, in Texas, carrying an open container in public is not against the law, but cities can ban it if they wish.
There is a wide range of possible consequences for violating liquor laws. The consequences will depend on the law violated and the state or locality in which the law is violated. Violations of liquor laws can result in various legal penalties, including a fine or a citation. Some more serious violations can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge, which may also be punishable by imprisonment for up to a year in jail and payment of a fine.
A business that violates liquor laws may temporarily or permanently lose its liquor license. This often occurs when a business is caught selling alcohol to minors. Or the business may be required to check the driver’s license of every customer who wants to purchase alcoholic beverages for some time.