The legal drinking age in Ohio is the same as the national consumption age, 21. If a minor is drinking, buying, or possess an alcoholic beverage (even a closed container), they may be arrested and charged with a host of offenses. Underage drinking is a serious crime in Ohio; simply possessing alcohol while underage is a first-degree misdemeanor. There are four exceptions to this law: on a private, non alcohol-selling premises, with consent and supervision of legal guardian, such as at a party; for religious purposes; for medical purposes, when administered by a physician; or with consent and supervision of a legal guardian on alcohol-selling premises, such as at a restaurant.
Under Ohio state law, children under the age of 21 may be permitted to drink under the direct supervision of their parents or legal guardian. The law is very clear and states that the parent or legal guardian must give consent and be physically present while their child consumes alcohol. This means that there is no legal written or verbal permission for a child to drink, they must be directly supervised by a parent or legal guardian.
This law does allow establishments such as restaurants or bars, to sell alcohol with the knowledge that it will be consumed by a minor, but also allows that establishment to not if it is in its policy. This law does clear liability of the establishment in the event that the parent or guardian orders the alcoholic beverage for their minor child.
This law does not extend to friends of your children. If a parent knowingly allows another child to drink or possess alcohol on their property, they face up to six months in jail. Even if the home the alcohol is consumed in is the child’s own and their parents are present; they must have permission from their own legal guardian and be under their supervision, there are no substitutes.
Social Host Liability
To help reduce the instances of alcohol negligence by party hosts and drinking establishments, Ohio has created the Social Host Liability law. This law makes the host of an event, where alcohol is served or sold, legally responsible for any underage patron that drinks at their event or establishment. If a person or place is found to have been providing or selling alcohol to a minor, they can be arrested. This means that if you have a party where alcohol is served, you may be held legally responsible if an underage person consumes or possess that alcohol. You may be charged with distributing alcohol to minors, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or child endangerment; as well as with any other charges the minor faces, to include operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI).
UDD/OVUAC vs. OVI
Because there are instances in Ohio where a minor may legally consume alcohol, there are also special driving laws for underage drinkers. Ohio has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving. An underage drinking and driving (UDD) or operating a vehicle after underage consumption (OVUAC) charge is for anyone under the age of 21 who has more than a 0.02 percent blood alcohol content (BAC). If a minor’s BAC is above a 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit for an adult, they are charged with an OVI as an adult instead. If there are other people under the age of 21 in the vehicle, the minor will likely also be charged with a count of child endangerment for each person.
Underage drinking can cause a lifetime of consequences for youth in Ohio. If you or your minor child have been charged with underage drinking-related offenses, do not go it alone. You need a professional on your side. At Probst Law Offices, our experienced DUI lawyers have been fighting for the future of promising college students and teenagers for years. Although we do not condone underage drinking or drinking-related mischief of any kind, we believe that everyone makes mistakes. You should not live the rest of your life shadowed by the consequences of a night of celebration. Call our expert DUI defense lawyers for your free consultation before entering a plea or taking any deal.