Alcohol Law and Legal Definition

The regulation of alcohol is generally focused on "intoxicating beverages" with the exact definition of "intoxicating" varying from statute to statute. Many states are lowering the level of legal intoxication from .10 BAC to .08 BAC. In many jurisdictions, it has been held that the list of liquors subject to regulatory or prohibitive enactments, particularly when such a list is followed by an expression akin to "or other intoxicating liquors" must be intoxicating in fact. Many statutes either refer to "intoxicating liquors" generally, or prescribe an alcoholic percentage cut off.

Alcohol sales and consumption is regulated under the "police powers" of the states, but may also be regulated by federal law when such laws do not infringe on the police powers of the states. This means that the Federal government lacks the power to regulate liquor sales by one citizen to another within the territorial limits of a given state, or to regulate liquor-related business within any state. However, the importation and interstate transportation of intoxicating liquors can be regulated by the Federal government under the Commerce Clause -- see the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935, 27 USC §§ 201 et seq.. The federal government also has the power to regulate liquor sales in D.C., and where it has exclusive authority such as on government owned military reservations, and with Indian tribes. In all other situations, the states' police power controls alcoholic beverage law. The federal government has, however, used financial incentives built into its funding of highways to establish a national minimum drinking age. See 23 USC § 158.

Generally, in states which have dry counties, no alcohol may be sold in those counties. Such states may also prohibit transportation of alcohol or possession of alcohol in dry counties, although it may be a defense if the defendant can prove the alcohol possessed was acquired legally. State laws vary, so local laws should be consulted.

The following is an example of a Kentucky state law on transporting alcohol in dry counties:

"242.260 Transportation and delivery in dry territory prohibited -- Exception. It shall be unlawful for any person or public or private carrier to bring into, transfer to another, deliver or distribute in any local option territory any alcoholic beverage, regardless of the name by which it may be called. Each package of such beverage so brought, transferred or delivered in such territory shall constitute a separate offense. Provided, however, that nothing herein shall be construed to prevent any distiller or manufacturer or any authorized agent of a distiller, manufacturer or wholesale dealer from transporting or causing to be transported by a licensed carrier any alcoholic beverage to their distilleries, breweries, wineries or warehouses where the sale of such beverage may be lawful, either in or out of the state."