Laws vary widely from state to state. Some states do not impose any liability on social hosts. Others limit liability to injuries that occur on the host's premises. Some extend the host's liability to injuries that occur anywhere a guest who has consumed alcohol goes. Many states have laws that pertain specifically to furnishing alcohol to minors. As society has become less tolerant of drunk driving and injuries resulting from the consumption of alcohol and as individuals and organizations concerned with alcohol abuse have taken an active role in the political process, the laws relating to alcohol have generally become more stringent.
Undoubtedly, you are curious as to what the laws may be in your state. The Alcohol Policy Information System (APIS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have made this information available to all of us.
The APIS is an online resource that features compilations and analyses of alcohol-related statutes and regulations. Its website includes an easily navigable map with links to summaries of the underage drinking laws of each state. APIS addresses social host laws under the topic "Hosting Underage Drinking Parties."
NHTSA has prepared a Digest of Impaired Driving & Selected Alcohol Beverage Control Laws which provides references to the most utilized laws relating to alcohol and impaired driving. Each state's entry includes:
- Basis for a DWI offense
- DWI Offenses and Commercial Motor Vehicles
- Chemical breath tests for alcohol concentration
- Other criminal actions related to DWI
- Adjudication of DWI charges
- Minimum age alcohol laws
- Dram Shop Laws and related actions
- Administrative Licensing Actions
Please refer to the Introduction and Definitions for reference.
Click below for your state's NHTSA entry:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Appendix A: Uniform Vehicle Code
Appendix B: Millenium DUI Prevention Act
The following information is derived from The Alcohol Beverage Control Enforcement Legal Research Report (pp. 17-9). (Prepared by the Division of Legal Analysis and Enforcement, Center for Policy Analysis and Training, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, pursuant to a contract with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.)
All states and the District of Columbia prohibit furnishing alcoholic berages to minors, however, states vary widely regarding the specific acts (exceptions) that are prohibited. Although in some states the prohibition applies only to commercial sellers. Often times, courts have interpreted the law(s) expansively, thus increasing the inconsistencies in the application of the law(s).
View a chart that distinguishes the exceptions in your state:
This information is merely a guide. In no way does the information contained herein constitute legal advice. It merely serves to emphasize the fact that furnishing alcohol to persons under 21 is illegal and may lead to criminal and civil liability.