Wisconsin Drinking Age: What are the Drinking Laws for Minors?
If you serve alcohol in Wisconsin, you should already know that the drinking age in Wisconsin is 21 years old. However, certain exceptions and conditions apply to minors who wish to drink. Understanding the legal drinking laws for minors in Wisconsin is essential for those who serve alcoholic beverages.
That’s why in this post, we’ll provide a comprehensive overview of the drinking laws in Wisconsin, including information on the legal drinking age, the exceptions for minors to drink with a parent or guardian, and the penalties for violating the laws.
What is the Legal Drinking Age in Wisconsin?
According to state law, the Wisconsin drinking age is 21 or older. An "underage person," also known as a minor, is any person under 21. Possession, consumption, purchase, or procurement of alcoholic beverages by an underage person is illegal unless an exception applies.
Wisconsin Drinking Age with Parents
The Wisconsin drinking age with parents applies to minors under 21 years old. Minors can legally drink with their parent, guardian, or spouse of legal drinking age, but this is subject to certain conditions. The alcohol must be given to them for consumption on private, non-alcohol-selling premises. Public premises such as bars, taverns, and liquor stores are exempt.
Can you drink under 21 with your parents in Wisconsin?
As mentioned above, the Wisconsin drinking age is 21, and minors under this age are allowed to consume alcohol as long as they are accompanied by a parent, legal guardian, or spouse of legal drinking age.
It is important to note that the Wisconsin drinking with parents law does not allow for unlimited or unsupervised drinking by minors. The responsible adult must exercise good judgment to ensure the minor does not consume excessive alcohol.
Because of the Wisconsin drinking with parents law, Wisconsin drinking laws for minors may can confusion. One aspect many are confused about is the minimum age one must be to drink with a parent or guardian legally. However, the law does not list a minimum age an individual must be to drink with a parent or guardian. Therefore, the law also applies to individuals under the age of 18. This applies to drinking at restaurants, bars, and private homes.
Moreover, Wisconsin's Absolute Sobriety Law states that minors must be completely sober when operating a vehicle, regardless of age or with whom they are.
According to the Wisconsin Alcohol Policy Project at UW-Law School, around 30 states have exceptions that allow minors to be served alcohol when with a parent or guardian.
However, it is ultimately up to the discretion of the establishment owner to allow or deny the consumption of alcohol to minors. The main concern is the behavior of minors after they have consumed alcohol.
There are cases where owners of bars, taverns, and liquor stores refuse to serve those under 21, stating that although they can legally serve them, they don’t intend to do so.
Even if a minor is with their parents, it’s the owner's discretion that they are 21 to drink on their premises. This is due to liability being a severe problem. Some owners won’t allow minors to drink because they have no control over what the minor will do after leaving the establishment. Therefore, they believe it’s safer to limit their liability.
The Wisconsin drinking with parents law was a topic of discussion for former State Senator Judy Robson of Beloit in 2009, as she attempted to modify the law to reduce drinking among minors.
Senator Judy Robson authored a bill to set a minimum age limit of 18 for minors to legally consume alcohol with a parent or guardian in bars and restaurants. Although the bill made it out of committee, it was never given a vote.
What penalties do you face if caught drinking as a minor in Wisconsin?
The penalties for violating drinking laws in Wisconsin can vary depending on the specific law being violated and the circumstances of the violation. However, some common penalties for violating drinking laws in Wisconsin include the following:
- Possession or consumption of alcohol by a minor: This can result in fines, license suspension, community service, and/or participation in educational or treatment programs.
- Supply of alcohol to minors can result in fines and/or imprisonment.
- Operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (drunk driving) can result in fines, imprisonment, license suspension, and/or mandatory participation in educational or treatment programs.
Specifically, according to Wisconsin law, knowingly possessing or consuming alcohol from age 17-20 will result in a $100-$200 forfeiture. If you are charged with drinking under 21 multiple times in the same year, the punishment increases as follows:
- 2nd in a year: $200-$300
- 3rd in a year: $300-$500
- 4th & subsequent in a year: $500-$1000
It is important to note that these penalties can be more severe if there are aggravating factors, such as causing injury or property damage, or if the individual has prior convictions for alcohol-related offenses. In all cases, consulting with a local attorney or legal professional for specific information on the penalties for violating drinking laws in Wisconsin is best.
If you’re looking to become a bartender or work in an industry that serves alcohol, sign up for one of our Wisconsin Alcohol Server Certification training programs, where you will learn the skills for handling situations and improve your work and in turn be a more attractive candidate.