Minor in Possession of Alcohol Laws


Minor in possession of alcohol laws prohibit the possession, consumption, or internal possession of alcohol by underage youth.


To deter underage youth from buying and consuming alcohol

Typical Elements

  • Variation in policy parameters by state (even though all 50 states and the District of Columbia prohibit possession of alcoholic beverages):
    • Does each jurisdiction prohibit consumption of alcoholic beverages by those under age 21?
    • Does the state prohibit internal possession of alcoholic beverages for anyone under age 21? Internal possession laws require evidence of alcohol in the minor’s body but do not necessarily require evidence of possession or consumption (SAMHSA, 2011).
  • Individuals/organizations with the expertise needed to determine whether the state allows exceptions to possession, consumption, or internal possession laws, such as:
    • When a family member consents or is present: If the state allows this exception, experts should find out what, if any, circumstances are required and which relatives can consent or must be present for this exception to apply.
    • When alcohol is possessed or consumed at specific locations: If the state allows this exception, experts should find out if it extends to all private locations, private residences only, or the home of a parent or legal guardian only. Also, is this exception conditional on the presence and/or consent of a parent or legal guardian? Is prohibition of underage consumption restricted to licensed premises only?
      • Tip: State-level information on key components of minor in possession laws can be found at the Alcohol Policy Information System website.
  • ​​Stakeholders collaborate with community leaders to pinpoint ways to strengthen existing state laws. The collaboration could focus on the presence or absence of consumption and internal possession laws, then consider specific statutory family and location exceptions.
  • Community leaders define and strengthen consequences for violating minor in possession laws. Specifically, they could consider penalties that require the suspension of, revocation of, or delay in obtaining driving privileges (also known as use-and-lose penalties). NHTSA (2003) recommends implementing an administrative policy that revokes or suspends licenses of minor in possession offenders (specifically, internal possession) that:
    • Is consistent with provisions of the state’s administrative procedures acts
    • Includes a provision requiring the arresting officer to serve the notice of revocation (suspension), take the offender’s license, and issue a temporary permit
    • Grants the offender an administrative hearing but does not allow the hearing to delay license revocation
    • Revokes the license for 90 days if the offender fails a blood alcohol concentration test, with full revocation for 30 days followed by at least 60 days of restricted driving
    • Revokes the license for a full 90 days if the offender refuses a BAC test (i.e., no period for restricted driving privileges)
    • Requires the offender to pay for license reinstatement
    • Handles license revocation (an administrative sanction) separately from any criminal procedures
  • As appropriate, prevention champions and stakeholders collaborate with community leaders and their staff to help draft revisions to and shepherd legislation.
  • Support for policy revisions at the state level. Stakeholders can utilize media advocacy strategies, as needed, to increase awareness and gain support.
  • Stakeholders collaborate with community leaders to enhance enforcement activities related to minor in possession laws, such as party patrols, social host liability, responsible beverage server training, and sobriety checkpoints.
  • As needed, educational opportunities for the general public about any policy changes, compliance requirements, and enforcement methods to enhance deterrence effects.


Youth under age 21


  • Introduction of minor in possession policies has been linked to a decrease in the underage fatal traffic crashes that involve underage drinking (Fell, Fisher, Voas, Blackman, & Tippetts, 2009).
  • Use-and-lose penalties have been associated with reductions in:
    • Subsequent traffic convictions and crash involvements among drivers under the age of 21 (Ulmer, Shabanova & Preusser, 2001)
    • Driving after drinking any alcohol among underage youth (Cavazos-Rehg et al., 2012)
    • Riding in a car with a driver who has been drinking alcohol among underage youth (Cavazos-Rehg et al., 2012)
    • The incidence of underage fatal crashes (Fell et al., 2009)


Traffic Safety Facts: Laws – Administrative License Revocation (Suspension)

Underage Drinking: Possession/Consumption/Internal Possession of Alcohol

Underage Drinking: Use/Lose: Driving Privileges


No recognition found for role of minor in possession of alcohol laws in preventing underage drinking and/or its consequences.


Cavazos-Rehg, P. A., Krauss, M. J., Spitznagel, E. L., Chaloupka, F. J., Schootman, M., Grucza, R. A., & Bierut, L. J. (2012). Associations between selected state laws and teenagers’ drinking and driving behaviors. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 36(9), 1647–1652.

Fell, J. C., Fisher, D. A., Voas, R. B., Blackman, K., & Tippetts, A. S. (2009). The impact of underage drinking laws on alcohol-related crashes of young drivers. Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, 33(7), 1208–1219.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). (2003, May). Administrative license revocation (suspension). Traffic Safety Facts: Laws, 1(1). Retrieved from https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a0db010dc2b4a275d40be78/t/5a1473e4ec212de0e4531023/1511289830075/NHTSA_ALR_Aclohol_810878.pdf

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2011). Report to congress on the prevention and reduction of underage drinking. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from https://alcoholpolicy.niaaa.nih.gov/sites/default/files/imce/users/u1743/stop_act_rtc_2017.pdf 

Ulmer, R. G., Shabanova, V. I., & Preusser, D. F. (2001). Evaluation of use and lose laws. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved from https://icsw.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/pub/alcohol-laws/eval-of-law/pageiii.html