Connecticut Alcohol Laws: Small State, Big Surprise

Connecticut alcohol laws cover the making, selling, and drinking of alcohol. The state is close to many others. Those states may have alcohol laws that differ. Visitors should keep that in mind.


I.   Alcohol Minimum Ages
II.  Alcohol Violations
III. Resources
IV.  Seek Good Advice

Alcohol laws even differ within a state. So does the vigor of enforcement. Accidentally breaking a law can cause serious problems.

I. Alcohol Minimum Ages

Often young people seek part-time jobs. Hospitality offers many. They often involve alcohol. Youths need to know the ages needed for them. How old must one be to serve alcohol in a restaurant? To tend bar? To sell alcohol for consumption off-site?

Connecticut alcohol laws permit adults to serve alcohol in restaurants. Adults are those 18 or older. They may tend bar. They may also sell alcohol for off-site consumption. There are no differences for beer, wine, or  spirits.

Connecticut has no law against drinking alcohol by anyone of any age under 21. But they may not buy alcohol. A parent or guardian must provide the alcohol to them.

connecticut alcohol lawsMany parents drink with their children to demystefy alcohol and promote moderation. They think it’s better for young people to learn to drink in the parents’ house than in a fraternity house.

It is a crime to use a false ID to buy alcohol. Doing so can lead to driver’s license suspension. It is also a crime to make, transfer, lend, or sell a false ID. Retailers are permitted to seize IDs that appear to be false.

It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.02.

II. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

In Connecticut,  grocery and convenience stores sell beer. Package stores sell wine and spirits for consumption elsewhere. Package stores may sell from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. They may sell from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Restaurants and bars serve alcohol from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Bars must close by 2 p.m.

Restaurants and bars may sell sealed containers of draught beer (growlers) for off-premise consumption. However, they may not sell over four liters a day to any individual.

The township of Bridgewater is dry. It is illegal to sell beer, wine or spirits there.

It’s illegal to sell an alcoholic beverage to anyone under the age of 21. The penalty is is a fine of up to $1500 and/or imprisonment for up to 18 months.

The sale of powdered alcohol, or palcohol, is also illegal. Selling it is penalized with a fine of $250.

Alcohol retailers can be held liable if they sell to a visibly intoxicated person who then causes a driving accident. Liability is limited to $250,000. However, if the customer was under 21, the liability is unlimited.

Buying Alcohol

connecticut alcohol lawsIt’s illegal under Connecticut alcohol laws for anyone under 21 to buy alcohol. The fine for doing so is $200 to $500.

If a person makes a false statement in trying to buy alcohol, it’s a simple violation. On the other hand, using a fake ID to do so is a misdemeanor. That’s a crime. The penalty for this crime is imprisonment for up to 30 days. And the fine is $200 to $500.

The possession of alcohol by anyone under 21 is unlawful. The state punishes it with a fine of $200 to $500. Those convicted of illegal purchase or possession of alcohol face another penalty. The state may suspend their driving license. If they don’t yet have a license, the state may delay issuing them.

Buying or possessing powdered alcohol (palcohol) is illegal. The fine for doing so is $100.

Connecticut has a minimum price law for wine and spirits. This makes the state uncompetitive with its neighbors. Therefore, many residents travel across the state line to save money.

Driving and Alcohol

connecticut alcohol lawsIn Connecticut, operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is a criminal offense.  This offense may be prosecuted with or without any direct evidence of a person’s BAC.  The determining factor is whether a person’s ability to drive has been impaired.

Connecticut alcohol laws prohibit driving with ability impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.

This is usually determined by measuring (actually estimating) blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A reading of 0.08 or higher is illegal. For those under age 21, the prohibition is 0.02 or higher. However, the state may prosecute without any direct evidence of a driver’s BAC. It only needs to show that a person’s ability to drive has been impaired.

connecticut alcohol lawsAn ignition interlock device (IID) prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has a BAC of 0.025 or higher. An IID is required before restoration of license suspensions. After restoration, the IID must be maintained for at least the length of time shown. The convicted must pay all costs for installation, maintenance, and monitoring.

First Conviction
  • Imprisonment for two days to six months.
  • Fines of $500 to $1,000.
  • License suspension for one year.
  • IID for six months. (One year for drivers under 21.)
Second Conviction within Ten Years
  • connecticut alcohol lawsImprisonment for 120 days to two years.
  • Fines of $1,000 to $4,000.
  • License suspension for one year.
  • IID for one year. (Two years for drivers under 21.)
Third Conviction within Ten Years
  • Imprisonment for one to three years.
  • Fines of $2,000 to $8,000.
  • License revoked for life.

Driver Rights

All drivers enjoy a U.S. Constitutional right to decline submitting to a chemical BAC test. However, the state punishes those who use their right. The first time drivers use their right, their license is suspended for six months. The second occasion, it’s suspended for one year. A third use of their right triggers a suspension for three years.

connecticut alcohol lawsHowever, the state does not impose a penalty for not submitting to a field sobriety test. These are notoriously subjective and very inaccurate. In fact, about one-third of completely sober people fail field sobriety tests. That is, about one of every three people with a 0.00 BAC fail them.

Understandably, lawyers strongly advise drivers never take them. They say to politely refuse. And to refuse as many times as necessary. Officers learn convincing ways to pressure drivers into submitting. They often falsely insist that the law requires it. False. No law requires it. They often promise that it can prove the driver’s innocence. Officers don’t think that passing the test proves sobriety. So passing doesn’t help the driver.

Learn much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

Boating and Alcohol

connecticut alcohol lawsConnecticut alcohol laws prohibit boating under the influence (BUI). That is, operating a boat or personal watercraft under the influence of alcohol and/or any drug. The prohibition includes riding water skis, wakeboard, or similar devices.

Boaters age 21 or older are under the influence if they have a BAC of 0.08 or higher. For boaters under 21, it’s 0.02 or above.

The penalties for a first conviction may be these.
  • Mandatory imprisonment for 48 hours to six months.
  • A fine of $500 to $1,000.
  • Boating license suspension for one year.
  • Probation requiring community service of 100 hours.
The penalties for a second conviction within 10 years may be these.
  • connecticut alcohol lawsMandatory imprisonment for 120 days to two years.
  • A fine of $1,000 to $4,000.
  • Boating license suspension for three years.
  • Probation requiring community service of 100 hours.
The penalty for a third or later conviction within ten years may be these.
  • Mandatory imprisonment for one to three years.
  • A fine of $2,000 to $8,000.
  • Boating license suspension for life.
  • Probation requiring community service of 100 hours.

The penalties for using the right not to submit to a chemical BAC test are more severe than failing it.

III. Resources on Connecticut Alcohol Laws

IV. Seek Good Advice

Connecticut alcohol laws can be hard to understand. The same is true elsewhere. Laws can change. Their interpretation can change. They can conflict. Legal training is needed to understand them. Never rely on this or any other site. And never rely on family or friends. Nor on neighbors or co-workers. Their advice and beliefs are worth what they cost. Which is nothing.

connecticut alcohol lawsGet information and advice about Connecticut alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer holding a license in the the state.

It’s also a good idea to select a lawyer who practices in the locality of concern.