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It is common practice for minors in countries around the world to consume alcohol. Whether it is a glass of wine with dinner or a beer on New Years, parents from Peru to Paris will often tolerate—if not encourage—teenage drinking. This widespread acceptance of moderate underage drinking isn’t as tolerated in the US. Proponents claim that by allowing minors to drink, you effectively remove the taboo from it, leading to more responsible alcohol use in the future. Detractors cite the opposite, claiming that by allowing alcohol use at an early age, you are encouraging heavier use and subsequent substance abuse later on.

The United States is one of only 4 developed countries in the world with a drinking age above 18. However, the legal driving age in other countries tends to be higher, making drunk driving less of an issue than it is here. States have the ability to set the minimum drinking age to wherever they please. However, the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 makes any state which opts for a drinking age below 21 to forfeit 10 percent of their highway budget. This is not something states have been willing to give up, making the minimum drinking age 21 across the nation. Each state also has the ability to impose extra regulation with regard to underage drinking along with exceptions.

What are the exceptions?

religious wine

There are currently five states which have no exception to the minimum drinking age. The other 45 states have exceptions to allow consumption of alcohol by minors in highly specified circumstances. There are currently eight classifications of exceptions and, within each classification, each state sets specific requirements that must be met before the consumption can be considered legal. The eight classifications are as follows.

  1. On private non alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent. This includes consumption at homes or on property that is not open to the general public. 29 states currently have a version of this exception.
  2. On private, non alcohol-selling premises, without parental consent. This is highly dependent of the specific requirements set forth by the individual state. Six states currently have a version of this exception.
  3. For religious purposes. This may include wine at a church ceremony. 26 states currently have a version of this exception
  4. For medical purposes. This may include alcohol prescribed as medication by a licensed physician. 16 states currently have a version of this exception.
  5. For government work related purposes. This may include minors working undercover in a police investigation. Four states currently have a version of this exception.
  6. For educational purposes. This may include students in culinary school who sample alcohol as part of their curriculum. 11 states currently have a version of this exception.
  7. When reporting medical need for another minor as a result of underage drinking. This may include a minor who has been drinking calling emergency services for a different underage drinker. 17 states and D.C. currently have a version of this exception.
  8. On alcohol-selling premises, with parental consent. This may include restaurants, bars or other locations where alcohol is regularly sold. 10 states currently have a version of this exception.

What is social host liability?

It is very important to know exactly what requirements must be met as set forth by your state of residence before allowing any minor to drink in your presence. Another important aspect to consider is whether your state imposes social host liability laws. These are laws set forth to impose liability on social hosts as a result of serving alcohol. If an accident such as car crash or injury occurs as a result of the alcohol you served, you may be held liable. There are two classifications of these laws.

  1. General social host liability. These include not only consumption of alcohol by minors that results in an accident, but also adults. That is, if you continue to serve alcohol to someone who is visibly intoxicated, you may be held liable if an incident occurs. There are currently 20 states that have some version of this law.
  2. Minors only social host liability. These are specific to underage consumption of alcohol that results in an accident. There are currently nine states that have some version of this law.

What are the laws in Nevada?

Trouble in Las Vegas

The current social host liability law in Nevada states that a person or business could be held liable for injuries to a third party resulting from the consumption of alcohol by a minor. The state of Nevada currently upholds five exceptions to the minimum drinking age. These exceptions include:

  • on private non alcohol-selling premises with and without parental consent
  • for religious and medical purposes
  • on alcohol-selling premises with parental consent.

New Years Eve is rapidly approaching and is one of the biggest holidays of the year for alcohol consumption. It is important for anyone who chooses to consume alcohol to do so responsibly, especially this holiday season. If you find yourself in need of legal representation, call Gabriel L. Grasso, the best criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas.