A minor in North Dakota may not manufacture, purchase, possess, consume, be under the influence of alcohol (or attempt to do these things); or enter into establishments that are licensed to sell alcohol, with few exceptions (see below). It is also illegal for a minor to give money to an adult to purchase alcohol for the minor. Adults are also prohibited from knowingly delivering alcohol to minors, or for licensees—those licensed to sell alcohol— to knowingly allow minors to remain in establishments where alcohol is sold or displayed. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-08(1) & 5-02-06(1).)
Minors in North Dakota are considered to turn 21 years old at 8 AM on the minor’s 21st birthday. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-02-06(6).)
Exceptions to the Rule
North Dakota recognizes seven exceptions to the general rule prohibiting minors from possessing, consuming, or being in an establishment licensed to sell alcohol.
- Visiting restaurants with parents or guardians. A minor may enter a restaurant that serves alcohol if the minor is accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-08(2)(a) & 5-02-06(2).) Minors may also be in restaurants where the restaurant is separate from the room where alcohol is opened or mixed, and where gross sales of food are at least equal to those of alcohol. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-02-06(2).)
- Independent contractors. A minor may enter into an establishment licensed to sell alcohol if that minor is an independent contractor (or an independent contractor’s employee), engaged in contract work for that establishment, and is not involved in selling, dispensing, delivering, or consuming alcohol. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-08(2)(c).)
- Law enforcement or public officials. A minor working as law enforcement officers or public officials may enter establishments licensed to sell alcohol during the performance of the minor’s official duties. However, the minor may not possess or consume alcohol in the course of the minor’s duty while the minor is in such an establishment. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-08(2)(d).)
- Training, education, or research purposes. As part of training, education, or research, a minor may enter establishments licensed to sell alcohol, as long as that minor is under an adult’s supervision. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-08(2)(e).)
- Religious services. Minors may consume alcohol as during, and as part of, religious services. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-08(1).)
- Event permits. Minors may be in an area where alcohol is sold, as long as such sale is in accordance with a state or local event permit. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-02-06(4).)
- Employment. A minor between the ages of 18 and 21 may be employed in restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol, as long as that minor is directly supervised by an adult. Such minors may serve (and collect money for) alcohol, but must not mix, dispense, or consume alcohol. Minors between 18 and 21 may also be employed as musicians in any establishment licensed to sell alcohol, but must be directly supervised by an adult. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-02-06(5).)
The penalties for violating North Dakota’s minor in possession laws differ depending on the violation.
Underage manufacture, purchase, possession, or consumption of alcohol; entering onto licensed premises. This type of violation is considered a class B misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $1,000, up to a year in jail, or both (as decided by the judge). Minors found violating the law against entry into establishments licensed to sell alcohol will also be sentenced to undertake alcohol and drug education classes. The court may also refer a violator to an outpatient addiction facility for evaluation, counseling, or treatment. Such a facility must be licensed by the North Dakota department of human services. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-08(3)&(4).)
Knowingly dispensing or delivering alcohol to a minor. It is illegal in North Dakota to knowingly dispense or deliver alcohol to a minor. A violation of this law is a class A misdemeanor; which carries a fine of up to $500, up to 30 days in jail, or both (as decided by the judge). (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-09(1) &5-02-06(1).)
Reporting the immediate need for help. North Dakota does not punish minors who are in violation of the above rules, but who report the immediate need for medical assistance (for the reporter or someone else) due to alcohol consumption. Immunity is available for up to five persons who stay to help the person affected until medical or law enforcement personnel arrives. If the reporter is an adult, the presiding judge will consider the reporter’s actions and might mitigate (lessen) the sentence. (North Dakota Cen. Code Ann. Section 5-01-08(6), 5-01-09(3)& 5-02-06(7).)
Getting Legal Help
Local procedures and attitudes towards the North Dakota minor in possession laws vary by community and county. The offense of consumption, for example, is considered for sentencing purposes to have occurred either in the county where the consumption occurred, or where the minor was arrested. Therefore, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer who is familiar with how these cases are handled in your county. This will give you a better chance of achieving the most favorable outcome under the unique circumstances of your case.