Washington Alcohol Laws: What’s Legal or Not in the State?

This page will help you understand Washington alcohol laws and avoid expensive fines or even jail. Not to mention time and legal costs.

Washington alcohol laws apply to its residents. They also apply to the its visitors. Residents may not be certain of their alcohol laws. And visitors may think its laws are the same as the ones they know. But ignorance of the law is no defense.             

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

I. Minimum Age Laws

Many young people want to get part-time jobs. Hospitality offers many. Some involve work with alcohol. What age must a person be to serve alcohol in restaurants? What is it for tending bar? How old to sell alcohol to drink elsewhere?

Washington alcohol laws permit adults of any age to be servers in venues that sell alcohol for drinking on site. That is, persons aged 18 or older may hold these jobs. A supervisor must be present. Persons must be 21 or older to tend bar.

State laws permit adults age 18 and older to sell alcohol in stores for use elsewhere.

Washington alcohol laws permit those of any age under 21 to drink alcohol with a parent or guardian present. Many parents do to de-mystify alcohol and promote moderation. This approach is effective.

Those under 21 may not buy alcohol. It is a crime to use a false ID to buy it. It is also illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.02%

II. Other Washington Alcohol Laws

A. Alcohol Sales

Licensed businesses may sell alcohol between 6 a.m. and to 2 a.m. But local option laws may reduce those hours of sale.

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone, including adults, under 21. It’s also a violation of Washington alcohol laws to serve an intoxicated person.

Alcohol containers, once opened, must remain on the premises. However, it is legal to remove a partially empty bottle of wine. This is to discourage over-drinking. Another exception. Hotel/motel guests may reseal and remove alcohol containers to drink in their rooms.

B. Buying Alcohol

It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy, or attempt to buy, alcohol. The penalty is jail up to 90 days. The fine is at least $250. Yet it could be as high as $1,000. In addition, the judge may require at least 25 hours of community service.

It’s also illegal to either possess another person’s ID or to loan one to another person. Each offense is punishable with up to 90 days in jail. The fine is at least $250. But it could be as high as $1,000 . And there’s the possibility of at least 25 hours of community service.

Forging, altering, or making false ID for other people is very serious. Its punishment is a fine of at least $2,500 and jail for up to one year.

It’s also illegal to open or drink alcohol in a public place. The penalty for doing so is a fine of up to $1,000.

C. Driving and Alcohol

Washington alcohol lawsIt’s a violation of Washington alcohol laws to drive a vehicle under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs.

For drivers age 21 or older, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% is illegal. For those under 21, including adults, a BAC of 0.02% or higher is illegal.

Under Age 21

The penalty for drivers under 21 with a BAC of 0.02% to 0.07% is a 90-day license suspension. Also up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

For a second conviction, it’s a license revocation until age 21 or at least one year. In addition, up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.

A  DUI isn’t necessary for a driver’s license suspension if a person is under 21. Simply possessing alcohol or a drug triggers a suspension for one year. A second conviction means an automatic two-year suspension.

Any Age

Ignition Interlock Device

Drivers of any age with a BAC of 0.08 or higher face several penalties. There’s a 90-day automatic license suspension. Also one day in jail or 15 days of BAC monitoring at home. The fine could be as high as $8,125.

In addition, the judge may impose an ignition interlock device (IID) on the offender’s vehicle. And that’s at the expense of the offender. An IID prevents starting the vehicle’s engine if there is alcohol on the driver’s breath.

For a second DUI with a BAC of 0.08 or higher the penalties increase. The state revokes the license for at least two years. Jail is for at least 30 days. Electronic home monitoring is for 60 days. The fine is up to $8,125. Also the judge may require an IID for up to five years. That is at the offender’s expense


Any opened containers of alcohol must be in the vehicle’s trunk. That is to comply with the state open container law.

D. Boatingwashington alcohol laws

It’s a violation of Washington alcohol laws to operate a vessel while under the influence of alcohol or any drug.

That is having a BAC of 0.08% or higher. Or if the operator was under the influence or affected by alcohol and/or any drug. Of course, that’s in the opinion of the arresting officer.

Finally, the convicted boater may have to pay for property damage, injury, or death.

III. Resources onWashington Alcohol Laws

IV. Advice about Washington Alcohol Laws

Understanding laws is hard. They vary from state to state. Some vary from county to county. They vary from city to city. And they change over time. They may conflict. And court interpretations can confuse.

washington alcohol lawsSo do not rely on this site. Nor on any other site. And beware. Friends may give advice. Co-workers may give opinions. Neighbors may speculate. Kin also may offer to help. All can confuse. Smile and thank them. Then ignore what they say. It might be wrong.

Get facts or advice about Washington alcohol laws from an expert. That is, a lawyer with a license in the state. Enforcement practices vary across the state. So it’s a good idea to select one who practices in the locale of concern.


So now you know more about Washington alcohol laws than do most residents of the State!


Also, do you know of any fact that should be added? If so, please contact hansondj (at sign) Potsdam (dot) edu/. Thank you for your help!