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.

           Overview

I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  More Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV.  Get Good Advice

I. Minimum Age Laws

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’s the age 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.

Thus, freedom of religion is thus denied. However, 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. More Minnesota Alcohol Laws

Selling Alcohol

minnesota alcohol lawsOnly liquor stores may sell wine and distilled spirits. Spirits are tequila, vodka, rum, gin, whiskey, 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 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 adults 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 retailers may sell or serve alcohol.

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 also 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.

Most 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 that everyone produces alcohol 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

The state imposes administrative penalties for DWI 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, another is the specific judge.

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 right to decline chemical testing.

The increased penalties are

  • License revocation increased to one year.
  • Vehicle plate impoundment. This applies to all vehicles in the offenders name, either alone or jointly.
  • Jail 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
  • Chemical dependency assessment.
  • Completion of any recommended treatment.
  • Jail for 30 days to one year. Judge decides if sentence is jail and/or 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 right to decline chemical testing.

Third Offense within Ten Years (a DWI from another state counts as a prior DWI)

  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID)

    License 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.
  • Chemical dependency assessment.
  • Completion of any recommended treatment.
  • Jail for 30 days to one year. However, the judge decides if the sentence is jail and/or community service.
  • Vehicle plate impoundment. This applies to all vehicles in the offenders name, either alone or jointly.
  • 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 right to decline chemical testing.

When arrested for a third DWI, the offender is jailed until the first court appearance. The bail is $12,000. If they can’t pay pail, offenders can obtain release only if they agree to abstain from alcohol. They must have 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.
  • A prior felony DWI.

Drivers with a charge of felony DWI remain in jail 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.
  • Random alcohol testing.

Penalties for a felony DWI include these.

  • Possibility of 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 IID on vehicle at own cost.
  • 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 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.
  • Not operating a motorboat for 90 days.
  • Possible jail.

Minnesota punishes boaters who use their right not to take chemical tests. They receive the penalties above. In addition they may not operate any motorboat for one year. And they receive more severe criminal charges.

Aggravating Factors

With any of these aggravating factors, the offense automatically becomes more serious.

  • A BAC of 0.16% or higher.
  • Prior DWI convictions.
  • Use of right to refuse chemical test.
  • 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 lawsJail.
  • Loss of vehicle driver’s license.
  • A higher fine.
  • Loss of vehicle plates.
  • Forfeiture of motorboat and trailer.

The state records on driving records all BWI convictions and uses of right to decline chemical testing.

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. Get Good Advice about Drinking Laws in Minnesota

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.

Law isn’t a do it yourself project. So never rely on this site. Nor any other site. Nor on friends. Neighbors. Nor even on relatives.

Smile and thank them. Then ignore what  they say. Their advice is worth what you paid for it. That is, nothing. Even worse, it may mislead.

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