Guide to Alcohol Laws in the United States
Alcohol related laws vary widely from state to state and even city to city. Here are some laws from select cities and states. Also see our Guide to alcohol laws for California.
What is the minimum age to buy alcohol?
Throughout the country, the general minimum age to purchase alcohol is 21 years old.1National Minimum Drinking Age Act However, most states allow those under 21 to drink in certain circumstances, such as for religious purposes or on private property that does not sell alcohol.
Are there restrictions on when and where I can buy alcohol?
Some states and localities have “blue laws” which prohibit the sale of alcohol on certain days/times, such as on Sundays. Here you will find information on laws relating to when and where you can buy alcohol in each state.
Is it illegal to simply carry alcohol in public? What are “open container” or “open consumption” or “common consumption” laws?
Open container or consumption laws are those that relate to drinking in public, carrying alcohol in public, or having alcohol in a car while driving. It varies by state and city. Most locations ban drinking in public, but a few places are famous for their lenient alcohol laws.
New Orleans allows drinking in public in certain areas, including the French Quarter.
On the Las Vegas Strip, you can possess and consume alcoholic beverages on the street except within parking lots or, if the alcohol was purchased in a closed container, on the premises of or within 1000 feet of the store from which it was purchased.2Clark County Code Note that this does NOT apply in the rest of Las Vegas (technically the Strip is in unincorporated Clark County, Nevada, just below the city limits of Las Vegas. The city itself restricts the open consumption of alcohol. It is also illegal to possess a glass or aluminum beverage container (whether alcohol is in it or not) on certain streets during special events, such as the Strip on New Year’s Eve.
On the Tampa Riverwalk, you can have up to 2 alcoholic drinks in plastic containers per person, purchased from one of the licensed vendors along the Riverwalk, between 11am-1am.
Manhattan (New York City)
Manhattan recently “decriminalized” drinking in public, meaning that it won’t get you arrested but you can still get a fine for it.
Here you can find more laws about open containers and other alcohol laws.
Is it illegal to have alcohol in a car?
40 states have laws that prohibit consuming or possessing open containers of alcohol in a vehicle or on a public highway. These include: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.
Arkansas and West Virginia prohibit only the consumption of alcohol while in a motor vehicle or on a public highway.
In Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia, drivers (but not passengers) are prohibited from consuming alcohol while operating a motor vehicle.
Mississippi and the Virgin Islands do not have laws regulating the consumption or possession of alcohol in motor vehicles.
What happens if I get into a car accident after I have been drinking?
You may be more likely to be liable for the accident. See our Guide to Car Accident Law.
Get Legal Help
See options for getting legal help for alcohol related issues.