Underage Drinking Law and Legal Definition

In the U.S., federal law establishes 21 as the national minimum drinking age. Underage drinking is also governed by state laws, which vary by state. In some states, it is a civil offense and in some states it is a criminal offense. As of 2005, 21 states do not specifically ban underage consumption and an additional 15 states have family member and/or location exceptions to their underage consumption laws.

Federal law has exceptions for religious, medical, employment and private club possession of alcohol by minors. Most states also have family member and/or location exceptions to their underage possession laws.

Binge drinking has become an increasing concern, especially on college campuses. Numerous studies have been conducted to prove the danger and associated costs of underage drinking.

Example of a state statute on Under age drinking.

In Delaware by virtue of Delaware Code § 904, any person under the age of 21 years who knowingly makes a false statement that he is over the age of 21 to any person engaged in the sale of alcoholic liquor for the purpose of obtaining liquor, shall, in addition to the payment of costs, be fined

i) if such person is a first time offender, not less than $ 100 nor more than $ 500, and on failure to pay such fine and costs, shall be imprisoned for 30 days; and

ii) for each subsequent like offense, not less than $ 500 nor more than $ 1,000, and on failure to pay such fine and costs shall be imprisoned for 60 days.

Whoever sells any alcoholic liquor to any person who has not reached the age of 21 years shall, in addition to the payment of costs, be fined not less than $ 250 nor more than $ 500. On failure to pay such fine and costs, shall person shall be imprisoned for 30 days.

A person under the age of 21 years, who has alcoholic liquor in his or her possession at any time, or consumes or is found to have consumed alcoholic liquor, shall have their Delaware driver's license revoked for a period of 30 days for the 1st offense and not less than 90 days nor more than 180 days for each subsequent offense. If the underage person does not have a Delaware driver's license, the person shall be fined $ 100 for the 1st offense and not less than $ 200 nor more than $ 500 for each subsequent offense.