Oregon Alcohol Laws: They May be Confusing

Oregon alcohol laws cover all aspects of the beverage. However, most people are concerned with those laws about buying and drinking alcohol.

           Overview

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

Alcohol laws differ across the country. They even vary within each state. It’s easy to think that Oregon alcohol laws are the same as those elsewhere. This can be a very big mistake.

I. Minimum Age Alcohol Laws

Many young people want part-time jobs. Many are in hospitality. What age is needed for selling alcohol to drink elsewhere? Can I work in a restaurant serving alcohol if I’m 17? My son is 18 years old. Is he old enough to work as a bartender?

oregon alcohol lawsOregon alcohol laws permit adults of any age to work as an alcohol server, as a bartender, or as a cashier in a store that sells alcohol to drink off-site. An adult is anyone 18 or older.

Persons of any age under 21 may drink in a residence. A parent or guardian must be present. But the laws are confusing. They prohibit “personal possession” of alcohol by those  under 21. That includes the “consumption of a bottle of such beverages, or any portion thereof or a drink of such beverages.”  But how people may legally drink but not legally drink is unclear.

It is illegal for those under 21 to buy alcohol. Or to try to buy it. The beverage must be given to them by a parent or guardian. However, those under 21 may buy alcohol to help police entrap clerks and servers.

Finally, it’s illegal for those under 21 to drive with any measurable alcohol in their bodies.

II. Alcohol Violations

Selling Alcohol

Oregon has a government monopoly over the sale of packaged distilled spirits. That’s tequila, vodka, rum, scotch, bourbon, gin, etc.

Oregon alcohol laws permit the sale of alcohol for on- or off-premises consumption. Retailers may sell beer, wine, or spirits between 7 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. every day.

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under age 21. A first offense brings imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of $500 to $6,250. Another gets imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of $1,000 to $6,250. A third triggers imprisonment of at least 30 days. The same penalties apply to selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.

The use of a false ID is a crime. Alcohol sellers may confiscate false IDs.
In addition, retailers may sue anyone who uses a false ID to buy alcohol. They may recover losses they have from making the illegal sale.

Retailers face liability for injuries or damage caused by serving alcohol to intoxicated people who then cause a crash.

Buying Alcohol

oregon alcohol lawsIt’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy alcohol. Even attempting to buy it is illegal.

Only people 21 or older may enter a retail alcohol store, unless with a parent or spouse at least 21.

It’s illegal to give alcohol to anyone who is under 21 or visibly intoxicated. A first offense brings imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of $500 to $6,250. The second gets imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of $1,000 to $6,250. A third triggers imprisonment of at least 30 days. The same penalties apply to selling alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person.

Social hosts also face liability for injuries or damage caused by serving alcohol to those under 21. If such people then cause a crash, those who were harmed can sue the social host. The same is true of serving alcohol to intoxicated people.

Driving and Alcohol

oregon alcohol lawsIt’s a crime under Oregon alcohol laws to drive under the influence of intoxicants (DUII). Specifically, the influence can be from alcohol and/or drugs.

A blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher is illegal. For commercial drivers, it’s 0.04. And for drivers under 21, any measurable alcohol is DUII.

Virtually all other states set the limit at 0.02. This is for several reasons. One is that alcohol breath testers are not reliable. They don’t actually measure alcohol. The devices only estimate it. Another is that many medications and some foods contain alcohol. For example, bread. A third reason is endogenous ethanol production. That is, every person produces alcohol in their bodies 24/7. Setting the limit at 0.02 reduces the chances of convicting innocent people.

oregon alcohol lawsDrivers can also be arrested for DUII even if their BAC level is below the legal limit. It’s easy if a person has any of a number of medical problems. An officer may arrest a driver with signs of impairment consistent with driving under the influence.

Unfortunately, many medical and non-medical conditions mimic signs of intoxication. For example, under some conditions diabetics slur their words. They stumble, are disoriented, etc. Fatigue can also lead to signs of being under the influence. And the list goes on and on.

When people are arrested for most crimes, they don’t suffer any penalties unless they’re convicted. But an arrest for DUII, even if found guilty, is still penalized with license suspension and fees.

Oregon alcohol laws prevent plea bargaining a DUII down to a lesser offense. A DUII is generally a “first offense” if a driver hasn’t had one in the past five years.

First Offense
  • oregon alcohol laws

    Ignition Interlock Device

    Imprisonment for two days to one year.

  • License suspension for one year (even if innocent).

    Required ignition interlock device (IID) installed on vehicle for one year at end of license suspension. An IID prevents the vehicle from starting if there is alcohol in driver’s breath.

  • The installation, maintenance, and monitoring must be paid by the offender
  • Fine of $1,000 to $2,000 plus court costs.
  • Conviction fee of $255.
  • Required substance abuse screening at a cost to offender of $150.
  • Mandated completion of any treatment program recommended by screener. This is usually at the cost of the offender.
  • Prohibited from entering bars or taverns.
  • Required attendance at victim impact program at the cost of the offender.
  • Prohibited from possessing or consuming alcohol.
  • Probation for 18 to 36 months.
  • For a BAC of 0.15% or higher, the fine is $2,000 to $6,250.
  • With a passenger under 18 and driver at least three years older, the fine is up to $10,000.
Second Offense
  • oregon alcohol lawsLicense suspension for one to three years . It’s three years this is second DUI in five years. (Suspensions imposed even if driver is innocent.)
  • Required ignition interlock device (IID) installed on vehicle for two years at end of license suspension. An IID prevents the vehicle from starting if there is alcohol in driver’s breath. The installation, maintenance, and monitoring must be paid by the offender.
  • Imprisonment for ten to 60+ days.
  • Fine of $1,500 to $3,500 plus court costs.
  • Conviction fee of $255.
  • Required substance abuse screening at a cost to offender of $150.
  • Mandated completion of any treatment program recommended by screener. This is usually at the cost of the offender.
  • Required attendance at victim impact program at the cost of the offender.
  • Prohibited from possessing or drinking alcohol.
  • Probation for 24 to 36 months.
  • Prohibited from  entering bars or taverns.
  • With a passenger under 18 and driver at least three years older, the fine is up to $10,000.
Third Offense within Five Years
  • oregon alcohol lawsLicense suspension for three years (even if innocent).
  • Required ignition interlock device (IID) installed on vehicle for two years at end of license suspension. An IID prevents the vehicle from starting if there is alcohol in driver’s breath. The installation, maintenance, and monitoring must be paid by offender.
  • Imprisonment for two days to one year and/or fine of $2,000 to $4,000.
  • Required substance abuse screening at a cost to offender of $150.
  • Mandated completion of any treatment program recommended by screener. This is usually at the cost of the offender.
  • Required attendance at victim impact program at the cost of the offender.
  • Prohibited from possessing or consuming alcohol.
  • Probation for 36 to 60 months.
  • Prohibited from entering bars or taverns.
  • With a passenger under 18 and driver at least three years older, the fine is up to $10,000.
Fourth Offense within Ten Years
  • Imprisonment for up to five years and/or fine up to $12,500.
  • Permanent license revocation.
  • With a passenger under 18 and driver at least three years older, the fine is up to $10,000.
Commercial Drivers

The penalty for DUI is commercial license suspension for one year. For driving DUI while transporting hazardous materials, the suspension is for at least three years. A second DUI triggers lifetime commercial license revocation.

Drivers Under 18

oregon alcohol lawsThe penalty for a first DUI is simple. It’s license suspension for one year or until driver turns 17, whichever is longer. A second DUI brings another one-year suspension or until driver turns 18, whichever is longer.

Driver Rights

All drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline submitting to a chemical test. However, the state punishes those who use their right. The punishment for the first use of the right is an automatic one-year license suspension. For a second use of the right in five years, it’s for three years. This is much, much more severe than being guilty of DUI!

oregon alcohol lawsHowever, there is no legal penalty for not taking a field sobriety test. These are notoriously subjective and highly unreliable. In fact, about one-third of completely sober people fail them. That is, about one of every people with zero (0.00%) BAC fail them.

Lawyers strongly advise drivers never to take one. They say to simply but firmly refuse to submit. When an officer pulls a driver over for suspected DUI, the driver is a crime suspect. An officer is never a friend or ally of a crime suspect.

Officers learn clever ways to talk drivers into taking field sobriety tests. And it’s completely legal for an officer to mislead, be dishonest, or to lie to a suspect.

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

Other

It’s illegal to drink alcohol or have an open alcohol container in a vehicle on any road. Open containers must be in the trunk.

Drivers with a first-offense DUII may qualify for the DUII diversion program. They must first plead guilty or no contest. If they successfully complete the program, their case will be dismissed after one year.

Eligible drivers must pay $490 to petition the court. If accepted, drivers enter a one-year contract with the court. They agree to

  • Install and maintain an IID at their own expense.
  • Abstain from alcohol and illegal use of drugs for one year.
  • Complete a substance abuse treatment program
  • Attend a victim impact session.

After complying with the agreement and paying all costs, the driver applies for case dismissal.

Boating and Alcohol

oregon alcohol lawsOregon alcohol laws prohibit boating under the influence of intoxicants (BUII). Specifically, operating a boat while intoxicated. Intoxication may be from alcohol and/or drugs.

Boating refers to operating, propelling, or being in physical control of a boat. It’s also illegal for the owner of a boat to let anyone under the influence operate it.

A BAC of 0.08% is legally under the influence. However, a boat operator may be arrested for BUII well under the legal limit. All that’s needed is an officer’s belief that an operator shows any sign of alcohol impairment.

Unfortunately, fatigue or any of a number of medical conditions mimic alcohol impairment. The most common is diabetes. It’s symptoms often include slurred speech, confusion, difficulty walking, etc.

Penalties for BUII include these.

  • Fines up to $6,250 and/or imprisonment for up to one year.
  • Prohibition of operating a boat for one year.
  • Required completion of a boating safety course.
  • Cancellation of all boat registrations in offender’s name for up to three years.

Use of right to decline submitting to a chemical test may be used against operator in a trial.

III.  Resources on Oregon Alcohol Laws

State Code

Oregon alcohol lawsAdministrative Rules

Legislative Information

Supreme Court Opinions

Court of Appeals Opinions

Attorney General Opinions  

Liquor Control Commission  

State Bar Association

IV. Seek Good Advice

Oregon alcohol laws can be confusing. This is also true of other states. Understanding how laws work takes legal training. Do not rely on this site. Or on any site. Nor on neighbors. Friends. Or co-workers. Not even on family members. Smile and thank them. Then ignore their advice.

Get information and advice on Oregon alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer holding a license in the state.