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Drinking And Traveling: Alcohol Laws You Should Be Aware Of

This article will summarize certain local alcohol laws you may not know about, in order to help you make the most of your vacation, and to help you ensure it doesn’t become a “stay-cation” – at least until you can post bail.

Caveat: The author of this article is only licensed to practice law in one state and no foreign jurisdictions. The following is not intended to be anything like legal advice you can rely on.

SELECTED STATES[1]

All states have a minimum purchase and consumption age of 21, although some jurisdictions allow minors to drink under the supervision of their parents.

The U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a minimum purchase and drinking age of 18. So you might want to consider having that next frat-function in paradise; just saying.

Arizona

190-proof Everclear grain alcohol is legal in Arizona, as are drive-through liquor stores. Be careful, though: Arizona DUI penalties are some of the strictest in the nation. If you are “impaired to the slightest degree” you could be convicted, even if you have less than .08 BAC.

California

Motor vehicles entering from Mexico may only import 1 liter of alcohol. But the good news for those who may have had a little too much fun in Tijuana: minors will not be penalized for consuming if such consumption is discovered or reported through a medical emergency.

Colorado

You can booze it up until 2am in bars, but grocery stores and convenience stores are only allowed to sell 3.2% beer; no liquor or wine.

Of note, recreational marijuana has been legal in Colorado since 2012. It is easy to buy, but difficult to consume unless you are in a private residence or hotel which explicitly permits it. 

D.C.

Great news for our diligent representatives! Closing time in the Capitol is 2am on the weekdays, 3am on the weekends (and on days preceding federal holidays). On New Years, bars can keep serving until 4am.
Florida
State law prohibits selling alcohol after midnight, unless the county chooses otherwise. Miami-Dade County liquor stores may operate 24 hours a day, so I advise you to vacation in South Beach rather than in Disneyworld.

Interestingly, you can drink in Florida when you are 18 for “educational purposes”. Presumably, this means at college parties, but I am not 100% certain about that.

The bad news: no retail sale of wine in containers larger than 1 gallon; no “40’s”.

Georgia
You are not supposed to be drunk in public. The good news is the charge won’t likely stick unless you are drunk and obnoxious (i.e. loud or disorderly). Most local jurisdictions have open container restrictions, meaning no strolling down the street with a cocktail – unless you happen to be in Savannah.

Hawaii

Closing time is generally 2am, but some bars and restaurants hold a special “cabaret license” that allows them to serve until 4am. Suggest you plan accordingly.

Idaho

Nothing to report other than watch for DUI patrols on the road to Pullman.

Illinois

An excellent choice if you do not want to remember any of the fun times you had. Alcohol sales hours are not mandated by state law; they are left up to counties and cities. The lovely city of Cicero allows bars to stay open 24 hours, for example. A handful of bars in Cook County (where Chicago is) only kick you out for 2 or 3 hours a day.

Iowa

If a controlled substance (including alcohol) is detected in your system, you can be charged with operating while intoxicated (OWI) even if you were not “impaired” by the substance.

Louisiana

There are no state-imposed restrictions on bar hours. “24-hour” bars are common in New Orleans. Big surprise, right?

Alcohol can be consumed in the streets of New Orleans as long as it is in an “unbreakable container” (no glass).

Booze of any strength may be sold in supermarkets, drug stores, gas stations, and convenience stores. Local municipalities may not restrict this.

You can enter most bars at 18 years of age but you must be 21 years old to purchase or consume alcohol. Don’t worry, though: you can purchase alcohol for your underaged child (because Mardi Gras is obviously meant to be a family-friendly affair).

Drive-thru frozen daiquiri stands are legal and common, but be careful: the police can arrest you for driving with an open container – if you have put the straw in the cup. 

Massachusetts

A Massachusetts ID, a passport, or a military identification card, are the only acceptable proofs of age under state law.

Mississippi

No state open container laws. Free alcohol all day and night in coastal casinos.

Montana

No state open container laws.

Nevada

Public intoxication is expressly legal per state law. Las Vegas allows for public consumption. 

New Mexico

It’s tough to catch a buzz on Sundays. Only a few jurisdictions permit sales on Sundays. Furnishing to minors is a class 4 felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison – unless you can convince the judge it was for religious purposes.

New York

Bars can stay open until 4am, and generally, you can buy beer 24 hours a day (but not wine or liquor – sales close at midnight). No open containers in New York City, though. Some counties have tighter restrictions on bar hours and overnight beer sales.

North Carolina

You can buy beer and wine until 2am at bars or stores, but unfortunately, bars can’t have “happy hours” or “buy one get one free” specials. Liquor stores close at 9pm, and aren’t open on Sundays.

Oregon

You can drink in public (i.e. open container) in Hood River. Marijuana is legal for 21+ adults to consume in Oregon statewide. For a good guide to Marijuana DUI in Oregon, please click here.

South Carolina 

State law says you can buy beer and wine 24 hours a day Monday through Saturday, but liquor stores must close at 7pm. Some local jurisdictions allow Sunday sales.
Tennessee
Closing time is 3am all week. If you want wine or liquor on Sunday you have to buy it in a restaurant. You can’t buy alcohol retail on Christmas, Thanksgiving, Labor Day, New Years Day, or the Fourth of July – stock up in advance! 
Texas 
Closing time is midnight, 1am on Saturdays (although some bars have 2am licenses). Retail sales of beer and wine have the same hours restrictions. Liquor stores close at 9pm Monday-Saturday, and are not open on Sundays. 11 counties are completely dry, and in many counties, public intoxication laws are “vigorously enforced”.
Washington
You have come to the right website if you are charged with DUI or a traffic ticket in Washington state. Please give our highly experienced, zealous advocates a call to set up your free consultation today!

CANADA[2]

Canadian law considers DUI to be a serious offense. If you have a DUI on your record they might not let you in. Even having pled your DUI down to a lesser charge may not enough; it will depend on the exact wording of your plea agreement. For example, a plea to a simple misdemeanor Negligent Driving charge which admits some alcohol effect might be worse than a Reckless Driving gross misdemeanor plea which does not.

A pending charge will be likely be treated the same as a conviction. If you have multiple DUIs they almost certainly will deny you admission.

Border agents have full access to the FBI criminal database and the United States National Crime Information Center (NCIC). So don’t lie. Lying/forgetting about a conviction could get you barred from entry into Canada for many years, or for life. And do not attempt entry at a different border crossing on the same day thinking you have a fresh chance with a new officer. Denied admissions are updated immediately in a centralized database and will be visible at all ports of entry.

As a general rule, the older your conviction (10 years or more), the better the chance that you have of being allowed. However, you certainly cannot count on being granted entry. Even President Bush had to get a special waiver to enter Canada because of his 1976 drunken-driving offense.

There are three ways to overcome criminal inadmissibility to Canada based on your DUI.

Deemed Rehabilitation. You may be deemed rehabilitated and be eligible for entry after a certain period has expired from the completion of your sentence (not the date of your conviction).   This is typically 5-10 years, depending on the type of conviction.

To be eligible to apply for Criminal Rehabilitation, five years must have passed since the completion of your sentence. Criminal Rehabilitation processing times are typically between nine months and one year, so it is best to apply well in advance of your intended travel date. The good news is they never need to be renewed.

It might be possible to get a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) to enter Canada, but this is up to the passport control officer’s discretion and requires a $200 (Canadian) fee.  The TRP is meant to allow entry for exceptional circumstances, like reasons of national interest or on strong humanitarian or compassionate grounds – so don’t count on it if all you want to do is go snowboarding in Whistler. TRPs can take a while to obtain as well. It is common for people to apply for both TRP and Criminal Rehabilitation at the same time, which may allow them to visit Canada both immediately (on the TRP), then permanently.

It probably goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway: if you pick up new charges you will no longer be considered rehabilitated.

To apply for “criminal rehabilitation” you must submit the following:

  1. An application form IMM 1444E
  2. A passport size photograph
  3. A copy of your passport data pages
  4. An FBI police certificate
  5. A state police certificate
  6. Copies of court documents indicating the charge, section of law violated, the verdict, and sentencing
  7. Proof of completed sentences, paid fines, court costs, ordered treatments, etc.
  8. Copies of the text of the law describing the offence.
  9. Detailed explanation of the circumstances surrounding the offence
  10. Three letters of reference from responsible citizens.
  11. A non-refundable processing fee of $180 USD

 

 

For in-depth information regarding the process of applying for a waiver or other admissibility questions you can reach the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) by calling either (506) 636-5064 or (204) 983-3500. You may also want to view the following link: http://www.cic.gc.ca/

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_alcohol_laws_of_the_United_States; http://wandrlymagazine.com/alcohol/

[2] The author has borrowed extensively from the following resources in researching entry to Canada with a DUI on your record, with much thanks:

http://www.canadaduientrylaw.com/
https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/402/~/entering-the-u.s.-and-canada-with-dui-offenses

http://www.ezbordercrossing.com/the-inspection-experience/prior-criminal-offenses/crossing-canadian-border-with-a-dui/

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g153339-c49436/Canada:Dwi.Or.Dui.Driving.Convictions.html