While the federal alcohol laws do not set a minimum legal drinking age or establish what constitutes underage, in 1984, Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act which would essentially force all states to raise their minimum drinking age to 21. Because the federal law allows states to make their own laws and regulations governing the sale of alcohol, the national minimum act could not tell the individual states that they were required to raise the drinking age, but instead, states that did not comply would lose federal highway funding, so all 50 states eventually gave in. In Ohio, the legal minimum age to purchase alcohol and the minimum drinking age is 21. However, Ohio, along with 44 other states, allows minors (a person under the age of 21) to consume alcohol under some circumstances. Here, we will discuss the Ohio alcohol laws for minors and some underage drinking penalties.
Ohio Alcohol Laws for Minors
The Ohio state laws governing alcohol are very clear, you may be arrested for: drinking, buying, or possessing alcohol while under 21 years old; selling or providing alcohol to someone under the age of 21; or using a fake ID to buy, or otherwise obtain, alcohol. Social liability laws also make it so that anyone who hosts a party or social gathering where alcohol is served or consumed, responsible in the event that a minor consumes said alcohol and injures or kills someone. These laws are meant to limit providing alcohol to minors in Ohio.
Ohio state law does allow for parents to allow their children (or spouses who are over the age of 21 to allow their underage spouse) to consume alcohol, under certain circumstances. For a parent to consent for a minor to consume alcohol, the parent has to be physically present with the minor and supervising the minor at all times. The parent assumes all responsibility and consequences should the minor cause damage or injury. Restaurants and bars are legally allowed to serve alcoholic beverages to parents, knowing it will be consumed by a minor, but are also allowed to refuse to serve alcohol to a minor. It is at the discretion of the individual establishment.
Drinking Under the Age of 21 Consequences
While drinking under the age of 21 may be done lawfully and in good tastes, there are certain consequences if it is not done as the law states. However, if a minor is caught possessing, consuming, or being intoxicated without parental or spousal consent and under the direct supervision of the said adult, they can be charged with underage drinking. A conviction of underage drinking may result in a fine, suspension of drivers license or permit, and mandatory enrollment into a drug and alcohol diversion program. If the intoxicated minor is driving, the maximum blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is much lower for minors, 0.02. If a minor is found driving with a BAC over 0.02 but less than 0.08, the minor can be charged with an Operating Vehicle after Underage Consumption (OVUAC). If the BAC of a minor is above 0.08, they will be charged as an adult with an OVI, which is a much more serious offense.
If you or your child are facing underage drinking charges or providing alcohol to minor charges, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. For a criminal defense attorney in Columbus, Ohio who understands the laws and the impacts that underage drinking penalties can have on your future, you need Michael Probst on your side. Contact Probst Law Office for your free consultation today.