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Legal for Kids to Drink Alcohol With Parents?

By Aditi Mukherji, JD | Last updated on

Whether it's cloyingly sweet Manischewitz or a can of Bud Light, is it legal for teens to drink with their parents?

The morality of it is certainly a controversial question. Some parents think it's an effective way to teach kids how to drink responsibly, while others firmly believe it's a path to alcoholism.

Morality aside, the legality of furnishing a drink or two to a minor depends on the circumstances.

Underage Drinking Exceptions

Although the minimum drinking age is officially 21 in all 50 states, 45 states legally exempt minors from underage drinking laws under certain circumstances, according to

These exceptions for underage drinking, which have detailed state-specific requirements, include:

  • On private property (including homes and offices) with parental presence and consent: 29 states
  • On private property (including homes and offices) without parental presence and consent: 6 states
  • For religious purposes: 25 states
  • For medical purposes: 16 states
  • For government work-related purposes (like working undercover): 4 states
  • For educational purposes (such as culinary school): 11 states
  • When reporting medical emergency (e.g. when one underage drinker dials 911 for another minor): 17 states and Washington D.C.
  • On alcohol-selling premises (such as restaurants and bars) with parental presence and consent: 11 states

Five states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, New Hampshire, and West Virginia -- have no exceptions to their underage alcohol consumption laws.

Parental Liability for Underage Drinking Parties

Before you serve up Dirty Girl Scouts at your teens' post-prom rager, keep in mind that nearly 20 states have imposed general social host liability laws and nine states have social host laws specific to minors.

Many of these laws hold parents responsible for serving or furnishing alcohol to minors and any alcohol-related injuries that result from it.

Parents in California and other states with strict rules on underage drinking have been arrested for drunken teen parties. Hey, New York parents: it's happened to your people, too.

Whatever happened to the innocent joy of sparkling apple cider?

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