What Are the Three Major Categories of Liquor Law Violations?
Liquor laws concern the possession, consumption, and serving of alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, and spirits), as well as their commercial sale. Every state has its own Liquor law violations, and the laws typically break down into the three primary categories: consumption (including possession); sale; and the serving of alcohol. Regardless of the type of liquor law you are alleged to have broken, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced Minnesota criminal defense lawyer sooner rather than later.
If you are facing accusations of a liquor law violation, it is vital that you find aggressive legal counsel that is not afraid to fight for you. Favorable outcomes in these cases are possible, but it requires a strong defense. The attorneys of Gerald Miller could help you build a defense that secures the favorable outcome you deserve. Reach out for a free consultation as soon as possible.
Laws Related to the Consumption of Alcohol
Most violations of liquor laws in Minnesota relate to the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Unlike other regulations that target the makers or purveyors of these drinks, these offenses largely target the consumer. For that reason, they are the most commonly-charged alcohol related offenses under state law.
The offense most likely to result in an arrest on this list is driving while impaired (DWI). In fact, this charge leads to more arrests than any other criminal offense. Other offenses related to underage drinking or consuming an alcoholic beverage in an inappropriate location are also common.
The state of Minnesota’s liquor laws are unique in several ways, compared to other states. The Minnesota laws that relate to the consumption of alcohol include the following:
- Underage drinking – In Minnesota, as in every other state, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume, purchase, or attempt to purchase alcohol.
● Driving while intoxicated – Driving while intoxicated, commonly known by its abbreviation of DWI and sometimes referred to a DUI (Driving Under the Influence), is defined in Minnesota as either driving, being in physical control of, or operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The legal limit of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in Minnesota – and in every other state – is 0.08 percent. One’s BAC is typically measured by either a breath or blood test.
● Open containers in a vehicle – In Minnesota, it is illegal to consume or possess an open container of any alcoholic beverage in a vehicle that is on a public road, regardless of whether the driver is sober or under the influence of alcohol.
● Public consumption – While there is no statewide ban regarding the public consumption of alcohol in Minnesota, most, if not all, districts in the state have a ban of some form in place.
Each of these laws applies to the actual consumption of alcohol or having alcohol available to consume.
Laws Related to the Sale of Alcohol
Minnesota liquor laws also apply to individuals and entities that sell alcoholic beverages. These regulations include grocery stores that offer beer sales, as well as bars and restaurants that provide on-site sales of liquor, wine, or beer. These violations are far less common than cases involving the consumption of alcohol.
Minnesota’s laws that relate to the sale of alcohol are very specific and somewhat unique, including:
- Minnesota is not an alcohol control state, meaning it is not one of the 17 states in the nation in which the state itself has a monopoly on the retail (or wholesale) sale of a portion of or all alcoholic beverages.
● The legal hours of sale for on-site alcoholic beverages are from 8 AM to 2 AM, seven days a week.
● The legal hours for off-site alcohol sales are from 8 AM to 10 PM from Monday to Saturday, and from 11 AM to 6 PM on Sunday. Off-premises sales on Sunday did not become legal until July of 2017.
● Unique to Minnesota, grocery stores may only sell 3.2 percent beer (and may not sell wine or spirits) on any given day. 3.2 percent beer, colloquially known as “near beer,” is beer that contains a low percentage of alcohol.
Minnesota is more restrictive in relation to the sale of alcohol than are many other states. This is particularly true when it comes to limiting the alcohol content available in beer purchased in grocery stores.
Laws Related to Serving Alcohol
Minnesota also has highly specific laws related to the serving of alcohol. For the most part, these offenses are designed to ensure individuals under the age of 21 are unable to obtain an alcoholic beverage. Of course, Minnesota law is nuanced in that it provides some exceptions where minors can consume alcohol in the presence of their parents or guardians. Some of the common offenses in this category include:
- Although young people must be 21 years of age to purchase or consume alcohol, they can serve alcohol in the hospitality industry from the age of 18. Further, those who are at least 16 years old can serve in those establishments where 3.2 beer is incidental to the primary food service (some pizzerias, for example).
● In Minnesota, children of any age may drink in their parent or guardian’s home if the parent or guardian is present (a teen can have a glass of wine at the dinner table with his or her parents, for example).
● Minnesota laws are very strict regarding bars that over-serve alcohol to customers, serve alcohol to minors, or operate outside the hours of legal operation. The laws related to the sale of liquor in bars are known as dram shop laws, and they include other exacting limitations.
Qualifications for Liquor Licenses in Minnesota
There are four qualifications that must be met in order to secure a liquor license in Minnesota. Without a license, the production or sale of alcohol beverages is outlawed. These licensing requirements are located at Minnesota Statute Section 340A.301. The requirements include:
- is of good moral character and repute;
- is 21 years of age or older;
- has not had a license issued under this chapter revoked within five years of the date of license application, or to any person who at the time of the violation owns any interest, whether as a holder of more than five percent of the capital stock of a corporation licensee, as a partner or otherwise, in the premises or in the business conducted thereon, or to a corporation, partnership, association, enterprise, business, or firm in which any such person is in any manner interested; and
- has not been convicted within five years of the date of license application of a felony, or of a willful violation of a federal or state law, or local ordinance governing the manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession for sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages. The Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division may require that fingerprints be taken and may forward the fingerprints to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for purposes of a criminal history check.
Revocation of Liquor Licenses
There are criminal consequences that come with the violation of Minnesota liquor laws. However, there are also administrative consequences that could negatively impact your business. One of those consequences is the suspension—or even revocation—of a business’ liquor license.
If you or an employee face accusations of a liquor law violation, the state has the power to revoke a liquor license. This is an extreme outcome in most cases, especially for first-time offenders. After multiple temporary suspensions or complaints, the state could ultimately order a permanent revocation of a business’ liquor license.
Felons and Liquor Licenses
A criminal conviction—particularly a felony—could make it difficult to keep or obtain a liquor license in Minnesota. Whether or not a felon can secure a liquor license in Minnesota depends on the circumstances. While felons can obtain a license to sell alcohol if enough time has passed, restrictions are tighter when it comes to producing alcoholic beverages.
Discuss Your Charges with an Experienced Minnesota Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
Because of the tight regulation on alcoholic beverages, prosecutors often aggressively pursue any alleged violations. As is the case with any criminal charge, it is important to seek out legal counsel as soon as you face these allegations. The sooner your attorney takes up your case, the better your chances of success are going to be.
Minnesota takes its liquor laws very seriously, and you should too. If you are facing a charge related to a liquor law, the formidable criminal defense attorneys at Gerald Miller in Minneapolis have considerable experience helping clients like you successfully navigate the legal process and obtain favorable charge resolutions. Our dedicated legal team is poised to help, so please do not hesitate to contact or call us at 612.440.3212 today.
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