North Dakota Alcohol Laws & Religious Freedom (and Much More)

North Dakota alcohol laws cover the state and its visitors. Many may think its alcohol laws are the same as in their home states. That could be a big mistake. And ignorance of the law is no excuse in court.


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

I. Minimum Age Laws

Young people in North Dakota may want to work in hospitality. It offers many jobs. But they should know the ages required for them. This information can help them plan.

What age is necessary for serving alcohol in a venue to be consumption on-site? How about for tending bar? What’s the age for selling alcohol to drink elsewhere?

North Dakota alcohol laws let adults age 18 through 20 be servers. They may sell and serve alcohol under the supervision of a person 21 or older. But they may not mix or dispense alcohol. Persons must be at least 21 to tend bar. The same is true to work in a store selling alcohol for consumption elsewhere.

The state prohibits drinking alcohol for all those under 21. That includes adults 18, 19, and 20 years old. There are no exceptions for medical or other reasons. This includes religion. Thus, it is illegal for those under 21 to have communion wine or wine in Seder.

This prohibition makes criminals of many priests, ministers, and Jewish parents. The harm in following ones religion this way is unclear. This needless religious prohibition seems to conflict with the right of religious freedom.

Using a false ID to buy alcohol is a criminal act. Retailers may seize IDs that appear to be false.

Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) 0.02% or more is illegal for those under 21.

II. More North Dakota Alcohol Laws

Selling Alcohol

north dakota alcohol lawsRetailers may not sell alcohol between 2 am and 8am on Mondays through Fridays. And it’s illegal between 2 a.m. and 12 p.m. on Sundays.

It’s also illegal to sell alcohol after 2 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and after 6 p.m. on December 24th. Nor may retailers sell alcohol at any time on December 25th.

Grocery stores may sell beer, wine, and spirits. However, they may do so only in a separate enclosed part of the store.

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.

Buying Alcohol

north dakota alcohol lawsUnder North Dakota Alcohol Laws it’s illegal for those under 21 to buy any alcoholic beverage.

In addition, it’s illegal to give or provide alcohol to anyone under 21. That includes parents giving alcohol to their adult children age 18, 19, or 20.

Those who provide any alcoholic beverage to anyone under 21 can face numerous charges. One of the most serious is that of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A conviction for this may prevent a young person from following a desired career. For example, in education, law, social services, law enforcement, or other fields.

Public Intoxication is not a crime in North Dakota.

Some young people may uses a false ID to buy try to buy alcohol. If they do so, it’s punishable by a fine up to $1,500 and/or up to thirty days jail. A person under 21 who possesses or drinks alcohol is subject to the same penalties.

Medical Emergency Amnesty

North Dakota alcohol laws include medical amnesty. The medical amnesty law is to prevent death from alcohol poisoning among those under 21. The problem is simple but serious. Inexperienced young people may over-drink. Because of the penalties for underage drinking, they may not seek medical help for themselves or others.

However, getting prompt help for alcohol-related emergencies reduces injuries and saves lives. So the law gives immunity from criminal prosecution to young people who call for medical help. The person who calls must remain on the scene helping the person in need until help arrives.

If the person in need calls, that person must cooperate with medical and law enforcement personnel at the scene. Learn more at Medical Amnesty Law.

Driving and Alcohol

Under North Dakota alcohol laws it’s illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above. For those under 21, the limit is 0.02%. Both are driving under the influence (DUI).

These are the penalties for DUI. For a first offense in seven years, it’s a license revocation for 91 days.

A second offense in that period brings the license revocation to 365 days. For a third conviction in seven years, the state doubles the revocation to two years.

The penalties are much higher for a DUI with a BAC of 0.18% or more. For a first such conviction in seven years, the license revocation is for 180 days. A second offense during that period triggers a revocation for two years. And a third conviction in seven years leads to a three-year license suspension.

North Dakota alcohol laws prohibit open containers of alcohol in vehicles.

Driver Rights

All drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline submitting to a chemical BAC test (“breathalyzer” test). However, the state penalizes drivers who use their right with a license revocation of 180 days to three years. The exact length depends on the circumstances and the judge.

However, the state does not penalize drivers who refuse to take a field sobriety test. These are highly inaccurate. For example, about one-third of completely sober people fail them. That is, about one of every three people with a BAC of 0.00% fail.

Police have ways to convince drivers that it’s in their interest to do so. It never is. They may falsely say the law requires it. The law doesn’t. Incidentally, police can legally lie while investigating. So don’t be a sucker!

Understandably, lawyers strongly urge drivers to never, ever take a field sobriety test. They say to politely refuse. And to do so as often as necessary.

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

Special Licenses

Courts may give first-time offenders who need a driver’s license to get to work a highly restrictive license. But they must serve at least 30 days of their license suspension. Or they must serve at least 14 days in the 24/7 Sobriety Program.

The state doesn’t give such permits to repeat offenders. Nor to drivers who use their right not to take a breathalyzer test.

Boating and Alcohol

north dakota alcohol lawsNorth Dakota alcohol laws prohibit anyone from boating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Boating includes operating any vessel as well as riding water skis, a surfboard, or similar devices.

A BAC of 0.10% or higher is evidence boating under the influence (BUI). However, the state may use other evidence to show BUI.

Penalties for BUI are a fine of up to $1,500 and/or imprisonment for up to 30 days. In addition, the state suspends the operating license for 91 days for a first offense.

A prior BUI conviction within five tears increases the suspension to 364 days. Two convictions within that time triggers a two-year suspension.

People 21 or older may legally possess open containers and drink alcohol in a boat.

Some boaters use the Constitutional right to decline taking a chemical test for BAC. If they do so, the state cannot present that fact in court.

III. Resources on North Dakota Alcohol Laws

IV. Get Legal Advice about Drinking Laws in North Dakota

North Dakota alcohol laws, as in other laws, can be hard to understand. They can be confusing. They can conflict. Family will give advice. So will neighbors. Co-workers and friends are full of ideas and opinions. Smile and thank them. Then ignore what they say. And never rely on this site. Nor on any other site.

Lawyers study law for years. Get information and advice about North Dakota alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer holding a license in the state.