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The National Minimum Drinking Age Act

With the exception of the Prohibition Era, which lasted from 1919 until 1933, regulation of alcohol sales and consumption in the United States was one area of the law historically left for individual state and local governments to determine.

Beginning in the 1970s, the federal government came under increasing pressure from concerned social activist groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to make sweeping adjustments to the national stance on this subject. In 1984, Congress passed the Minimum Drinking Age Act, which made the sale of alcohol illegal to anyone under the age of 21.

States were more or less forced to adopt this regulation, as the federal government threatened to withhold public funding for those that did not comply. However, the statute did not include provisions for the consumption of alcohol – only its sale. Some states decided to extend the new measures to an outright ban, enforcing “zero-tolerance” for anyone under 21 found to have been drinking. In Rhode Island, for instance, a minor with a Blood Alcohol Content of .02 is generally in the wrong.

Some states do make an exception in the case of a minor’s consumption of alcohol in the presence of an adult, or in his or her own home. These regulations are often complex and can vary even by county, as do punishments for first-time and repeat offenders.

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DUI is a serious offense regardless of age, but it can have especially significant consequences for a minor. If you or someone you love is in this situation, you will need the legal experience it takes to fight this charge effectively. Contact Rhode Island DUI defense lawyer Matthew Marin today by calling 401-287-4384.