11 January 2013

Virginia Alcohol Laws that Apply to Life

There are all sorts of laws out there that apply to alcohol, covering everything from its sale to its manufacture to its use. I've been asked recently to review those criminal laws which affect those who actually purchase and drink beer, wine, or ardent spirits in Virginia and after a quick review I came up with these.


The one everyone knows is what most people cal DUI, or driving under the influence.  However, in Virginia the crime does not occur when a person drives a vehicle, it happens when a person "operates" one.  Thus, if a person is behind the wheel, with the keys in the ignition, she is guilty. The statutes forbid a person under the influence of intoxicants to operate a motor vehicle, engine, train, or moped (18.2-266) and watercraft (29.1-738).  Generally, operating a vehicle under the influence is punished by up to 12 months in jail and up to a $2,500 fine, with various amounts of incarceration being mandated depending on certain factors (ie: presence of a minor in the car or level of alcohol in the driver's system).  If a person operates a vehicle under the influence three times in a ten year period, the third is felony with a maximum punishment of 5 years.

Where It Can be Consumed

It is generally illegal to drink in public (4.1-308) or be intoxicated in public (18.2-388) and doing either can result in a $250 fine.  As well, if one gives alcohol to guests visiting his home, the alcohol must be consumed in the residence (4.1-200).

Involving Minors

It is illegal for anyone under 21, interdicted, or intoxicated to buy, or be sold, alcohol (4.1-304).  It's also illegal to buy alcohol for someone you know (or should know) is a minor.  Obviously, it is illegal for a minor to drive with any alcohol in his system (18.2-266.1).  It is also illegal for a school bus driver to drink or possess alcohol while driving the bus with kids on it (4.1-309.1).


Anyone who has been interdicted cannot be sold alcohol (4.1-304) and cannot possess it (4.1-322).

Disorderly Conduct

It is illegal for someone, while under the influence, to disrupt a funeral, government meeting, religious meeting, school, or school activity (18.2-415).

Concealed Weapon

It is illegal to carry a concealed weapon while under the influence and it is illegal to drink alcohol at a place which serves it while carrying a concealed weapon (18.2-308).


It is illegal to be under the influence of alcohol while hunting (18.2-285).


If, within 6 weeks of birth, a doctor diagnoses harm to a child that was caused by prenatal use of alcohol he must report it (63.2-1509).


Yes, I know there are probably a dozen - if not dozens - of other laws out there which apply to the consumption of alcohol.  However, these are the ones which popped out at me.  If any others pop into your head feel free to add them in the comments below.


Anonymous said...

Open container 18.2-323.1 passengers can drink but not driver

Michael said...

I have two questions: 1. With regards to 4.1-200: Are there any laws that would make the home owner criminally liable for damages should the guest leave the home under the influence, operating a motor vehicle and subsequently crash and kill someone or themselves. 2. What if the guest is a minor, in which case the alcohol at the residence wasn't actually purchased for the minor, but consumed by the minor?

Ken Lammers said...

There are no laws that I know of that make it a crime to allow someone to leave the residence under the influence, but there could be civil liability. As for minors, as guests they could only drink if accompanied by a spouse over 21, a guardian, or parent. Giving it to a minor under other circumstances would be a criminal act - guest or not. If the minor stole the alcohol the resident would not be responsible unless he knew, or had reason to know, the thft and use was in progress before the minor left the residence.

Anonymous said...

Persons under age 21 may consume alcohol at a private residence with the permisson of a parent or spouse (over age 21) as long as that spouse/parent is also present. Out parental consent law is one of the most overlooked laws on our books and is consistently mis-stated by the government and misunderstood by judges.