Underage drinking is very common in Louisiana, and around the United States in general. Statistics show that 58% of American teens will have had at least one alcoholic drink by the time they reach 18.
Generally, American laws on underage alcohol consumption are much stricter than in other countries. However, Louisiana’s legal system is different to those of other American states in many ways.
Louisiana’s laws on underage drinking, therefore, take a little getting used to if you haven’t visited the state before.
Read on to learn more about these laws and how they’re likely to affect you if you’re new to the state.
What’s Different About the Law in Louisiana?
While the federal government sets down the basic laws Americans must abide by, states are in charge of setting more specific rules and regulations. Louisiana approaches this process in a different way than any other state.
Other states decide matters in court with the help of legal precedent. This means that they look at the decisions of courts in similar matters previously and base their findings on these.
However, Louisiana follows French and Spanish legal traditions. These don’t rely on judicial precedent, preferring to allow the judge to make a ruling based entirely on their interpretation of the laws and statutes.
This legal system has thrown up some quirks in the way Louisiana authorities deal with alcohol. Anyone who is a native of New Orleans will tell you of the drive-thru daiquiri stands dotted around the city. Despite strict drink driving laws, these stands are perfectly legal.
However, other areas in the state have much stricter alcohol laws. Before you travel to Louisiana, you should read up on the parish you’re going to and the laws they have.
Underage Drinking in Louisiana
All American states must abide by the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. This sets out that no person under the age of 21 years will be allowed to drink or possess alcohol.
Louisiana law sets out that this will apply other than in the case of limited exceptions. These exceptions include the following:
- Where the person is accompanied by a parent, guardian, or spouse that is over 21.
- Where the person must handle alcohol as part of their job, such as in a restaurant.
- Where the person consumes alcohol in a private residence.
- Where the person consumes alcohol as part of a religious celebration.
Therefore, if you’re concerned that your son or daughter won’t be able to drink with you while you’re on vacation in Louisiana, you should know that you won’t break any laws as long as you accompany them.
Penalties for Underage Possession or Consumption of Alcohol
If you are over the age of 18 and under the age of 21, you will face legal sanctions if you are caught in possession or under the influence of alcohol.
You may face a fine of up to $100, a driving license suspension of up to 180 days, or a jail term of as much as six months. The severity of the sentence will depend on whether you are a repeat offender, as well as various other life circumstances.
To ensure that you get as favorable an outcome as possible after being charged with underage possession or consumption of alcohol, you need to hire a lawyer with experience of dealing with cases involving younger people.
Purchasing Alcohol for a Minor
It is illegal to purchase alcohol for a minor unless you are a parent, guardian, or spouse of the minor in question.
The penalties for breaching this rule are wide-ranging and potentially severe. A judge can impose a fine of up to $500, a driving license suspension of up to 180 days, or even a jail term of up to 30 days.
Selling Alcohol to a Minor
It is an offense to provide anyone under the age of 21 with an alcoholic beverage unless the provider is a parent, guardian, or spouse over that age. Another exception arises if the person owns or works for a licensed establishment and is accepting the delivery of the alcohol in a professional capacity.
Servers of alcoholic beverages in bars and restaurants must be at least 18 years of age.
As is the case for someone who purchases alcohol for a minor, the penalties here are potentially quite severe. A court can impose a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail term of up to six months.
Driving Under the Influence as a Minor
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal no matter what age you are. If a police officer apprehends you committing this offense, they will issue a DUI or DWI.
However, the rules are much stricter for someone under the age of 21.
If you have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of over 0.02%, the police will assume that you’ve consumed alcohol. For a first offense, you will receive a fine of up to $250, as well as having to sit a driver improvement course and undergo a substance abuse evaluation.
For repeat offenses, sanctions are much stricter. Judges can impose a jail term of up to three months if they feel it is necessary.
Staying on the Right Side of the Law
Whether you’re just coming to Jefferson or New Orleans on vacation, or you’re moving to the state of Louisiana permanently, you’ll need to read up on underage drinking laws to make sure you don’t break a rule. While Louisiana is less strict than other places when it comes to alcohol, law enforcement officers still punish transgressions.
If you need advice on an incident relating to underage drinking, or any of our other practice areas, contact us today.