Furlong, PA asked in Criminal Law and Personal Injury for Minnesota

Q: MN drinking laws for minors

In Minnesota, if an adult is in the presence of a minor drinking and has reasonable knowledge that this minor is drinking, could they be held legally liable for the minor drinking? The adult is not furnishing the alcohol, handling the alcohol, and the social event is not held on the adult's property.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Brian Lehman
Brian Lehman

A: You want to research "social host" laws or ordinances, although if you are thinking of a specific incident reach out to an attorney. Anything involving alcohol and minors is serious.

Since you did not specify the city, a specific answer is not possible. Minnesota Statute 340A.801, subdivision 6, allows only *civil* actions against a social host over the age of 21 who knowingly provides alcohol to someone under age 21. The courts have ruled that allowing a party at a home where the owners/parents knew minors would consume alcohol, or by not taking the alcoholic beverages away from the minors, or by failing to stop the party, does not fall within the meaning of providing or furnishing alcohol to minors.

This interpretation that was perceived as a "loophole" by some people is the basis for Social Host Ordinances. Cities and counties are not granted general police powers, but have statutory authority to adopt and enforce a "social host" ordinance via Minnesota Statute 340A.509.

"A social host ordinance makes it unlawful to provide an environment where underage drinking takes place, regardless of who provided the alcohol. It addresses how a typical person ought to behave when there is potential harm to those under the legal age to drink. As a misdemeanor, any host found criminally responsible for violating a social host ordinance will face a penalty of time in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines."


So that is what a city or county could do. But the city or county may not have passed such an ordinance yet.

Also note that "county ordinances are not enforceable within incorporated areas (i.e. cities). For example, non-incorporated areas such as townships would fall under the county ordinance, whereas cities within the county would need to adopt a similar ordinance for it to be enforceable within their city limits."


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