Parent Power

the power to prevent underage alcohol use

Legal Harms: Are You At Risk?

Some parents believe it's okay to host underage drinking parties when adults are home. Some older siblings don't see the harm in allowing little brothers and sisters to drink. The reality is that both can cause physical harm to our kids and both may have legal consequences for those under and over age 21.

If the health consequences of underage drinking aren't enough to change your mind, perhaps the law will.

For those under age 21

MCA 16-6-305 states (1) (a) Except in the case of an alcoholic beverage provided in a nonintoxicating quantity to a person under 21 years of age by the person's parent or guardian, physician or dentist for medicinal purposes, a licensed pharmacist upon the prescription of a physician, or an ordained minister or priest in connection with a religious observance, a person may not sell or otherwise provide an alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age.

Intoxicating quantity means in excess of 0.05 or substantial physical or mental impairment.

MCA 61-8-410 states (1) It is unlawful for a person under the age of 21 who has an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or more to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle upon ways of this state open to the public.

MCA 45-5-624 states (2) (a) In addition to any disposition by the youth court under 41-5-1512, a person under 18 years of age who is convicted under this section:
(i) for the first offense, shall be fined an amount not less than $100 and not to exceed $300 and:

  1. shall be ordered to perform 20 hours of community service;
  2. shall be ordered, and the person's parent or parents or guardian shall be ordered, to complete and pay all costs of participation in a community-based substance abuse information course that meets the requirements of subsection (9), if one is available; and
  3. if the person has a driver's license, must have the license confiscated by the court for 30 days, except as provided in subsection (2)(b);

(ii) for a second offense, shall be fined an amount not less than $200 and not to exceed $600 and:

  1. shall be ordered to perform 40 hours of community service;
  2. shall be ordered, and the person's parent or parents or guardian shall be ordered, to complete and pay all costs of participation in a community-based substance abuse information course that meets the requirements of subsection (9), if one is available;
  3. if the person has a driver's license, must have the license confiscated by the court for 6 months, except as provided in subsection (2)(b); and
  4. shall be required to complete a chemical dependency assessment and treatment, if recommended, as provided in subsection (8);

(iii) for a third or subsequent offense, shall be fined an amount not less than $300 or more than $900, shall be ordered to perform 60 hours of community service, shall be ordered, and the person's parent or parents or guardian shall be ordered, to complete and pay all costs of participation in a community-based substance abuse information course that meets the requirements of subsection (9), if one is available, and shall be required to complete a chemical dependency assessment and treatment, if recommended, as provided in subsection (8). If the person has a driver's license, the court shall confiscate the license for 6 months, except as provided in subsection (2)(b).

  1. If the convicted person fails to complete the community-based substance abuse course and has a driver's license, the court shall order the license suspended for 3 months for a first offense, 9 months for a second offense, and 12 months for a third or subsequent offense.
  2. The court shall retain jurisdiction for up to 1 year to order suspension of a license under subsection (2)(b).

For individuals between ages 18 and 21

MCA 45-5-624 states: A person 18 years of age or older who is convicted of the offense of possession of an intoxicating substance:

  1. for a first offense:
    1. shall be fined an amount not less than $100 or more than $300;
    2. shall be ordered to perform 20 hours of community service; and
    3. shall be ordered to complete and pay all costs of participation in a community-based substance abuse information course that meets the requirements of subsection (9);
  2. for a second offense:
    1. shall be fined an amount not less than $200 or more than $600;
    2. shall be ordered to perform 40 hours of community service; and
    3. shall be ordered to complete and pay for an alcohol information course at an alcohol treatment program that meets the requirements of subsection (9), which may, in the court's discretion and upon recommendation of a licensed addiction counselor, include alcohol or drug treatment, or both;
  3. for a third or subsequent offense:
    1. shall be fined an amount not less than $300 or more than $900;
    2. shall be ordered to perform 60 hours of community service;
    3. shall be ordered to complete and pay for an alcohol information course at an alcohol treatment program that meets the requirements of subsection (9), which may, in the sentencing court's discretion and upon recommendation of a licensed addiction counselor, include alcohol or drug treatment, or both; and
    4. in the discretion of the court, shall be imprisoned in the county jail for a term not to exceed 6 months.

MCA 45-5-624 further states:

  1. A person under 21 years of age commits the offense of attempt to purchase an intoxicating substance if the person knowingly attempts to purchase an alcoholic beverage. A person convicted of attempt to purchase an intoxicating substance shall be fined an amount not to exceed $150 if the person was under 21 years of age at the time that the offense was committed and may be ordered to perform community service.
  2. A defendant who fails to comply with a sentence and is under 21 years of age and was under 18 years of age when the defendant failed to comply must be transferred to the youth court. If proceedings for failure to comply with a sentence are held in the youth court, the offender must be treated as an alleged youth in need of intervention as defined in 41-5-103. The youth court may enter its judgment under 41-5-1512

For Adults of Legal Drinking Age

16-6-305. Age limit for sale or provision of alcoholic beverages –– liability of provider.

  1.  
    1. Except in the case of an alcoholic beverage provided in a nonintoxicating quantity to a person under 21 years of age by the person's parent or guardian, physician or dentist for medicinal purposes, a licensed pharmacist upon the prescription of a physician, or an ordained minister or priest in connection with a religious observance, a person may not sell or otherwise provide an alcoholic beverage to a person under 21 years of age.
    2. A parent, guardian, or other person may not knowingly sell or otherwise provide an alcoholic beverage in an intoxicating quantity to a person under 21 years of age.
    3. For the purposes of this section, "intoxicating quantity" means a quantity of an alcoholic beverage that is sufficient to produce:
      1. a blood, breath, or urine alcohol concentration in excess of 0.05; or
      2. substantial or visible mental or physical impairment.
  2. A person is guilty of a misdemeanor who:
    1. invites a person under the age of 21 years into a public place where an alcoholic beverage is sold and treats, gives, or purchases an alcoholic beverage for the person;
    2. permits the person in a public place where an alcoholic beverage is sold to treat, give, or purchase alcoholic beverages for the person; or
    3. holds out the person to be 21 years of age or older to the owner of the establishment or to the owner's employee.
  3. It is unlawful for any person to fraudulently misrepresent the person's age to any dispenser of alcoholic beverages or to falsely procure any identification card or to alter any of the statements contained in any identification card, including a tribal identification card.
  4. A person 21 years of age or older who violates the provisions of subsection (1)(b) is, in addition to applicable criminal penalties, subject to civil liability for damages resulting from a tortious act committed by the person to whom the intoxicating substance was sold or provided if the act is judicially determined to be the result of the intoxicated condition created by the violation.

It is illegal for retail employees to sell alcohol to a person of any age if that customer intends to resell the liquor to someone under age 21. MCA 45-5-623

Social Hosts Ordinances in Montana

In several Montana local communities, it may be unlawful for parents and adults to knowingly serve alcohol to non-family guests whom they "know or should know" is underage age 21. You may be liable in civil litigation if those minors are injured in an alcohol-related accident. MCA 27-1-710

A Social Host ordinance holds hosts of parties responsible for providing places/locations for underage drinking. Currently three Montana communities have social host ordinances: Helena, Billings, and Great Falls. The FAQs provided are from the Helena Social Host Ordinance work. Thank you to our community!

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