This page will help you understand Delaware alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention time and embarrassment.
Delaware alcohol laws apply to residents. But also to visitors. Visitors need to know that its laws may be different from those of their home state. Note that not knowing the law is no excuse.
I. Minimum Age Laws
II. More Alcohol Laws
IV. Get Good Advice
I. Minimum Age Laws
Many young people want part-time jobs. Hospitality has many jobs they can do. But what are the minimum ages for them? Many involve alcohol. What’s the age for selling alcohol for drinking off-site. For serving alcohol in restaurants ? For tending bar?
Delaware alcohol laws permit adults 19 years or older to serve alcohol for on-premises drinking. They must be at lest 21 to tend bar. The same for selling alcohol for drinking off-site.
It’s legal in Delaware for persons of any age under 21 to drink alcohol with “members of the same family.” But one of these members must provide the alcohol. And the person under 21 must drink it in the “private home of any of said members.” The law does not define “family.” Nor does the law state a minimum age of those members.
There is no Delaware state law that specifically prohibits anyone under age 21 from buying alcohol. But it prohibits ‘obtaining’ alcohol by making a false statement. It’s also illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21.
Those under age 21 may not drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02% or higher.
II. More Delaware Alcohol Laws
A. Selling Alcohol
Sales for on-premise alcohol consumption is legal from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Sales for off-premise consumption is legal 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Sunday sales are legal from noon to 8 p.m. Of course, that’s subject to local ordinances.
Sales on holidays are not legal. So is any off-premise sale except for liquor stores, taprooms, and brewpubs.
B. Buying Alcohol
Delaware alcohol laws prohibit anyone, including adults, under age 21 from buying alcohol. It is also illegal for them to use false ID to buy or attempt to buy alcohol. The penalty is a fine of $500 or 30 days in imprisonment.
Those under 21, including adults, may not enter any off-premise alcohol business.
Delaware has no state sales tax. And it has no state alcohol monopoly keeping prices and selection low high in the absence of competition. Of course, the service is also better in Delaware.
On the other hand neighboring Pennsylvania has a monopoly system. In addition to a state sales tax, it adds an 18% Jamestown Flood tax. (The Jamestown flood was in 1936. The tax was to raise funds to help the city rebuild!) As a result, Pennsylvanians often choose to buy alcohol in Delaware.
C. Driving and Alcohol
Delaware alcohol laws prohibit driving with a BAC over 0.08%. To do so is driving under the influence (DUI).
However, police can still arrest drivers for DUI with a BAC under 0.08%. For example, for driving while drinking with no BAC. Or for being in the presence of any legal or illegal substance sufficient to charge the driver with DUI. Also for simply driving erratically, etc. On the other hand, passengers may consume alcohol.
These are the penalties for a first DUI conviction. It’s driver’s license suspention for 12 to 24 months and jail for up to six months. Plus, the fine is at least $230. But it could be up to $1,150. The driver must also install an ignition interlock device (IID) on the vehicle. That costs about $1,500. Of course, the offender must pay the cost. With it, the vehicle won’t start if there is alcohol on the driver’s breath.
The penalties for a second conviction increase. License revocation for 20 to 60 months. Plus jail for 60 days to 18 months, and a fine of $575 to $2,300. The state also mandates an IID at the driver’s expense.
Drivers do not have to submit to a breathalyzer test if police request. The U.S. Constitution grants the right to refuse. However, the state punishes those who use their right. To do so, it has increasing punishments.
The punishment for declining the test is a driver’s license revocation for one year. For declining again, it’s a revocation for 18 months. And for a driver who declines a third time, it’s a revocation for two years.
Under Age 21
The penalties for a first DUI conviction are these. Imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of $500 to $1,500, and license suspension. If the offender is under 18 and the BAC over 0.08, the state revokes the license until age 21.
For adult offenders 18 to 21 with a BAC over .08%, the license revocation for one year. For those under 21 with a BAC between 0.02% and 0.08%, the license revocation is for two months.
The penalties for a second conviction are imprisonment for 60 days to 18 months. There is a fine of at least $750. However, it could be to $2,500. And a license suspension of two or more years depending on BAC.
It’s important to know that DUI laws apply also to off-highway recreational vehicles.
D. Boating and Alcohol
Boaters are presumed to be under the influence of alcohol when the blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or more. That’s within four hours after the the boater was operating the vessel. The crime is boating under the influence (BUI).
The penalty for a first offense is a fine up to $1,000 and jail for up to six months. A second brings a fine up to $2,000 and jail up to 18 months. For a third, it’s a fine of up to $3,000 and prison up to two years.
Boaters under 21 years of age with a conviction for BUI may also face additional fines and community service.
Boaters in Delaware are to submit to a BAC test if requested by law enforcement. The state punishes operators who invoke their Constitutional right to decline. It does so with a one-year license revocation.
III. Resources on Delaware Alcohol Laws
- State Code
- Register of Regulation
- Supreme Court and other Court Opinions
- Attorney General Opinion
- Delaware State Bar Association
- Alcohol & Tobacco Enforcement
IV. Advice about Drinking Laws in Delaware
Delaware alcohol laws appear to be unclear and confusing. This is also true in other states. Knowing what is a family in the state, for example, is essential. Lawyers study law for years. It’s not for amateurs. Even smart ones.
A little knowledge can be dangerous. So do not rely on this site. Nor on any site. Also, beware of advice from friends. Or co-workers. Neighbors. Or even relatives. Smile and thank them. Then ignore what they say. It’s worth what you paid for it. So it’s not worth much. And worse, it may be misleading.
Get information and advice about Delaware alcohol laws from an expert. That is a lawyer holding a license in the state. In addition, alcohol laws and practices vary. Therefore, it’s a good idea to select a lawyer in your locale.
Here’s some good advice any lawyer will give. Don’t drink and drive.
At this point you know much more about Delaware than most residents of the state. Congratulations!