Legal Drinking Age

Legal Drinking Age
Since it was first introduced to the public, alcohol has become one of the most frequently consumed beverages in the United States. As most residents know, there are strict alcohol laws in place to control its availability to certain individuals. One of the most well-known guidelines is the legal drinking age law, a nationally enforced restriction that prohibits anyone under the age of 21 from purchasing and/or possessing alcohol.   

From a historical perspective, the use of alcohol has always been closely regulated by U.S. lawmakers. During the Prohibition Era, the substance was even banned altogether. In 1933, the nationwide ban on alcohol was finally lifted, and the substance was made readily available to the public.

Shortly after its legalization, many states passed laws to restrict the use of alcohol by minors. As a result, most state laws only allowed alcohol to be sold to individuals 21 of age or older. However, once the national voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, the restriction was challenged, leading 29 states to enact legislation that reduced the minimum drinking age as well. 

Unfortunately, with the lower drinking age in place, the country saw a substantial increase in the number of youths killed in alcohol-related auto accidents. Due to the rise in fatalities, many citizen advocacy groups were formed—such as Mothers against Drunk Drivers (MADD)—and they began pressuring legal representatives in their area to increase the minimum drinking age. Several lawmakers agreed and, between 1976 and 1983, 16 states reinstated the original minimum drinking age of 21.

Despite these changes, lawmakers remained concerned about alcohol use among minors. While 16 states had laws prohibiting individuals under 21 from purchasing the substance, younger residents could still purchase alcohol in the remaining 34 states. What’s more, because the laws did not restrict interstate alcohol purchases, youths in states where alcohol was not sold to minors could purchase it by travelling to a neighboring state with a lower drinking age. 

For the safety of all youths in the country, the American government enacted the Uniform Drinking Age Act in 1984. This new law encouraged states to pass laws restricting alcohol sales to minors by threatening to reduce federal highway and transportation funds in states where the minimum drinking age remained below 21. Shortly after this law was in place, the legal drinking age returned to 21 in all 50 states.

While studies show that a higher drinking age reduces the number of youths killed in auto accidents—saving more than 1,000 lives each year—minors continue to use alcohol nonetheless. Thousands of underage drinkers are arrested each year for violating the national drinking age law and face criminal penalties if convicted.

If you were recently arrested for underage drinking, it is important to obtain legal representation immediately. Many states allow minors to consume alcohol if their parent or guardian gives consent, and other exceptions may be allowed in certain areas. To learn more about the laws in your state, discuss your case with an experienced DUI defense attorney in your area today.

States and Cities:
AK Alaska, Anchorage LA Louisiana, New Orleans OH Ohio, Cincinnati
AL Alabama, Montgomery MA Massachusetts, Boston OK Oklahoma, Tulsa
AR Arkansas, Little Rock MD Maryland, Baltimore OR Oregon, Portland
AZ Arizona, Phoenix ME Maine, Portland PA Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
CA California, Los Angeles MI Michigan, Detroit RI Rhode Island, Providence
CO Colorado, Denver MN Minnesota, Duluth SC South Carolina, Charleston
CT Connecticut, Hartford MO Missouri, Branson SD South Dakota, Sioux Falls
DE Delaware, Wilmington MS Mississippi, Jackson TN Tennessee, Nashville
FL Florida, Orlando MT Montana, Bozeman TX Texas, Houston
GA Georgia, Atlanta NC North Carolina, Charoltte UT Utah, Salt Lake City
HI Hawaii, Honolulu ND North Dakota, Fargo VT Vermont, Burlington
IA Iowa, Des Moines NE Nebraska, Omaha VA Virginia, Richmond
ID Idaho, Boise NH New Hampshire, Portsmouth WA Washington, Seattle
IL Illinois, Chicago NJ New Jersey, Newark WI Wisconsin, Milwaukee
IN Indiana, Indianapolis NM New Mexico, Albuquerque WV West Virginia, Charleston
KS Kansas, Kansas City NV Nevada, Las Vegas WY Wyoming, Cheyenne
KY Kentucky, Lexington NY New York, New York DC Washington DC