Minnesota Alcohol Laws: Violate U.S. Constitution?

Minnesota alcohol laws apply to both residents and visitors. Its laws may differ from those elsewhere. Thinking they’re the same could cause serious problems.

I. Minimum Age Laws

           Overview

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

Some young people want to get part-time jobs. Hospitality offers many of them. Some involve working with alcohol. Youths need to know if they are old enough for them. What age is needed to serve alcohol? To tend bar? To sell alcohol for consumption off-site?

Minnesota alcohol laws permit adults to hold any of these jobs. That is, the minimum age is 18. Persons age 16 or older may serve in  areas where 3.2% beer is incidental to food service.

Drinking with Family

Those of any age under 21 may drink in a parent or guardian’s home. The parent or guardian must be present.  Many parents choose to do this. They want to demystefy alcohol and teach moderation. They think it’s better to learn how to drink in the parents’ house than in a fraternity house.

minnesota alcohol lawsThere is no exemption for religious or other use of alcohol. Therefore, taking communion wine is illegal. This also applies to adults 18, 19 and 20. Freedom of religion is thus denied. Having wine with Seder is legal. But it must be in a parent or guardian’s home with them present.

Those under 21 may not buy alcohol. Use of a false ID to do so is a criminal act. It is also criminal to lend, give, or sell a false ID.

It is illegal for those under 21 to drive with any alcohol in their body.

II. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

minnesota alcohol lawsOnly liquor stores may sell wine and distilled spirits. Spirits are tequila, vodka, rum, gin, scotch, bourbon, etc. Liquor stores may sell alcohol from 8:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., Mondays through Saturdays. On Sundays they may sell from 11:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

Some towns and cities have municipal government monopolies on wine and spirit sales. They prohibit others from selling these products.

It’s a violation of Minnesota alcohol laws to sell alcohol at certain times. Stores that sell alcohol for consumption off-site may not sell

  • Before 8:00 a.m. or after 10:00 p.m. on Mondays through Saturdays.
  • On Sundays, before 11:00 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m.
  • After 8:00 p.m. on December 24 until 8:00 a.m. on December 26.
  • On Thanksgiving Day.

Businesses that serve alcohol for consumption on-premises may not sell before 8:00 a.m. or after 2:00 a.m. That’s on Mondays through Saturdays.   Nor may they sell before 11:00 a.m. or after 6:00 p.m.  on Sundays.

However, restaurants, clubs, bowling alleys or hotel may serve alcohol with food on Sundays. To do so they must have food-service seating for at least 30 people. They may serve alcohol with food between 8:00 a.m. on Sundays and 1:00 a.m. on Mondays.

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21, even if they’re actively serving in the U.S. military.

Grocery stores may sell beer with only 3.2% alcohol (“near beer”) seven days per week.

It’s important to note that localities may reduce the hours during which alcohol may be sold or served.

Buying Alcohol

It’s a violation of Minnesota alcohol laws for anyone under age 21 to buy alcohol. That includes trying to buy it. Business selling alcohol may seize ID cards they believe to be false or altered. Understandably, it’s illegal for people to let anyone under 21 use their ID to try to buy alcohol.

It’s also illegal for anyone under 21 to be inside a business that sells alcohol. However, they may be inside such a business in performing their duties as an employee.

Selling spirits with very high alcohol such as Everclear is illegal. However, it is legal for customers to buy such spirits in other states and bring them home to Minnesota.

Minnesota does not consider people to be age 21 until after 8:00 a.m. on their 21st birthday. Of course, by then people have already been 21 for eight hours.

Driving and Alcohol

minnesota alcohol lawsMinnesota alcohol laws prohibit driving while impaired. Its definition of impairment is the broadest and most and subjective in the U.S. The source of the impairment may be from any of the following.

  • Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher.
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Having any Schedule I or II drug, except marijuana, in the body.
  • Knowingly being under the influence of a hazardous substance that substantially impairs driving abilities.

The laws about driving while impaired (DWI) apply not only to motor vehicles. They include snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, off-road vehicles, and motorboats.

Zero Tolerance

Drivers age 16 through 20 are subject to the same penalties as those 21 and older. Minnesota’s zero-tolerance policy expressed in its “Not-a-Drop” law. This makes it criminal for anyone under 21 to drive with any alcohol in the body.

minnesota alcohol lawsVirtually all other states set the BAC at 0.02%. They do this for several reasons. One is that alcohol breath testers are not reliable. Another is because of endogenous ethanol production. This refers to the fact that everyone produces alcohol naturally within their bodies. And they do it 24/7.

A third reason is that many medications and some foods contain alcohol. By setting the limit at 0.02%, states reduce the chances that they unfairly convict innocent people

Administrative penalties for DWI include are imposed whether or not the driver is guilty. So even innocent drivers can face these serious penalties. They include

  • Driver’s license revocation.
  • Vehicle plate impoundment.
  • Confiscation of vehicle.

The exact penalties for driving while impaired (DWI) vary widely. They depend on age, prior traffic offenses, level of impairment, and other factors. Of course, one of the factors is the specific judge who hears the case.

First Offense within Ten Years (a DWI from another state counts as a prior DWI)
  • License revocation for up to 90 days.
  • Fine of up to $1,000.
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment.

Penalties increase if any of the following apply

  • BAC was 0.16% or higher.
  • A passenger under 16 was in vehicle.
  • Driver used Constitutional right to decline chemical testing.

The increased penalties are

  • minnesota alcohol lawsLicense revocation increased to one year.
  • Vehicle plate impoundment. This applies to all vehicles in the offenders name, either alone or jointly.
  • Imprisonment for up to one year.
  • Fine up to $3,000.
  • Possible vehicle confiscation.
Second Offense within Ten Years (a DWI from another state counts as a prior DWI)
  • License revocation for one year.
  • Vehicle plate impoundment. This applies to all vehicles in the offenders name, either alone or jointly.
  • Fine of up to $3,000
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment.
  • Required completion of any recommended treatment.
  • Imprisonment for 30 days to one year. Judge decides if sentence must be served in jail and/or doing community service.

Penalties increase if any of the following apply

  • BAC was 0.16% or higher.
  • A passenger under 16 was in vehicle.
  • Driver used Constitutional right to decline chemical testing.
Third Offense within Ten Years (a DWI from another state counts as a prior DWI)
  • minnesota alcohol lawsLicense cancellation for three years. Offender must install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) on vehicle at own cost. The IID prevents vehicle from starting if alcohol is in driver’s breath.
  • Fine up to $3,000.
  • Mandatory chemical dependency assessment.
  • Required completion of any recommended treatment.
  • Imprisonment for 30 days to one year. Judge decides if sentence must be served in jail and/or doing community service.
  • Vehicle plate impoundment. This applies to all vehicles in the offenders name, either alone or jointly.
  • Possible possible vehicle confiscation.

Penalties increase if any of the following apply

  • BAC was 0.16% or higher.
  • A passenger under 16 was in vehicle.
  • Driver used Constitutional right to decline chemical testing.

minnesota alcohol lawsWhen arrested for a third DWI, the offender is jailed until the first court appearance. Unless they pay the bail of $12,000, offenders are released only if they agree to abstain from alcohol. They must then submit to electronic alcohol monitoring 24/7.

Felony DWI

A DWI is a felony (serious crime) if the driver has any of the following.

  • Three prior DWIs within the past ten years.
  • A prior felony vehicular injury or homicide conviction involving alcohol or drugs.
  • Conviction for a prior felony DWI.

Drivers arrested for a felony DWI are jailed until the first court appearance. Then the judge sets bail and conditions for release. They generally include these requirements.

  • Abstaining from alcohol and illicit drugs.
  • Vehicle plate impoundment.
  • Probation and weekly reporting to probation officer.
  • Submitting to random alcohol testing.

Penalties for a felony DWI include these.

  • Possibility of imprisonment in state prison for three to seven years.
  • Fines of up to $14,000.
  • Vehicle plate impoundment.
  • License cancellation for four to six years. Offender must install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) on vehicle at own cost. The IID prevents vehicle from starting if alcohol is in driver’s breath.
  • Possible vehicle confiscation.

Boating and Alcohol

minnesota alcohol lawsMinnesota alcohol laws prohibit operating a motorboat while impaired. The impairment may from alcohol, a controlled substance (or its metabolite), or other illegal drugs. The BAC for impaired operation is .08% or higher.

First time boating while impaired (BWI) offenders may have no prior DWIs of any kind. Otherwise, they are not first time offenders. First time BWI offenders are subject to several penalties.

  • A fine and surcharges of up to $1,000.
  • Prohibition against operating a motorboat for 90 days during the boating season.
  • Possible imprisonment.

Minnesota punishes boaters who use their Constitutional right not to submit to chemical testing. They’re subjected to the penalties listed above. However, they’re also immediately prohibited from operating any motorboat for one year. And they receive more severe criminal charges.

Aggravating Factors

If any of these aggravating factors are involved, the offense automatically becomes more serious.

  • A BAC of 0.16% or higher.
  • Prior DWI convictions.
  • Use of right to decline submitting to chemical test for either vehicles or boats.
  • A person under age 16 in boat at time of BWI.

Penalties increase with any aggravating factors or use of the right to decline. They may include these.

  • minnesota alcohol lawsMandatory imprisonment.
  • Loss of vehicle driver’s license.
  • A higher fine.
  • Loss of vehicle plates.
  • Forfeiture of motorboat and trailer used when arrested.

BWI convictions and uses of right to decline chemical testing are recorded on driving license records.

Minnesota’s alcohol laws permit open containers and drinking alcohol aboard boats. However, the boats must be anchored, moored, docked or being rowed.

III. Resources on Minnesota Alcohol Laws

IV. Seek Good Advice

Minnesota alcohol laws can confuse. They can in any state. Laws can change. Their interpretation can change. They can be unclear.  They can conflict. Making sense of them can be hard. That’s why lawyers exist. They study Minnesota alcohol laws for years.minnesota alcohol laws

Law isn’t a do it yourself project. So never rely on this or any other site. Or on friends. Neighbors. Or even on relatives. Smile and thank them. Then ignore what  they say.

Get information and advice about Minnesota’s alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer with a license in the state. That is the wise thing to do.