A minor younger than 21 in Oklahoma may not purchase, possess or consume alcohol—including “low-point beer,” containing more than one half of one percent of alcohol by volume--in any public place or building. It is also illegal for a minor to enter an establishment that sells alcohol as its main purpose. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 1215, 163.2(1), 246(A)&(B).) Minors younger than 18 to may not work in any establishment that sells or serves alcohol; nor may minors between 19 and 20 work in a separate or enclosed bar area of such establishments. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 243(A)&(B).) There are few exceptions to these rules (see below).
Exceptions to the Rule
Ohio recognizes four exceptions to the rule prohibiting minors from handling, possessing, or consuming alcohol.
Establishments with incidental alcohol sales. Minors may enter and remain in establishments where alcohol is sold, as long as the main purpose of the establishment is not the sale of alcohol. In other words, the sale of alcohol must be incidental to the main purpose—such as in a restaurant that sells wine with dinner--and minors must not be sold or furnished alcohol. This exception does not apply to bars where food (such as bar snacks) also happens to be served, if the main purpose of the establishment is the service of alcohol. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 241(B)&246(B).)
Employment. Minors may be employed by their parents, as long as the minor is not directly selling or dispensing alcohol. Furthermore, an establishment licensed to sell alcohol may employ minors older than 18 to handle or sell alcohol, when the sales are incidental to the main purpose of the job (such as selling food or bussing tables). Finally, minors may work in establishments where alcohol sales do not exceed 25% of the establishment’s gross sales. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 243(B),(C)&(D).)
Purchase under supervision of law enforcement. Minors may purchase (or attempt to purchase) alcohol under the supervision of law enforcement officers. This would apply, for example, during a “sting” operation. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 246(A).)
Consuming alcohol under supervision of a parent or guardian. A minor may possess or consume alcohol under the direct supervision of that minor’s parent or guardian, as long as the possession or consumption does not occur in an establishment licensed to sell alcohol. This exception would apply, for example, if a parent and minor child were at a friend’s house for dinner, and the parent allowed the minor to drink a beer with the adults during the meal. However, this would not be legal if the same group were dining in a restaurant that served alcohol. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 241(E)(1)&(2).)
Penalties for violating Oklahoma’s minor in possession laws vary according to the violation.
Illegal alcohol possession and consumption. Violations of Oklahoma’s minor in possession laws relating to illegal alcohol possession or consumption carry misdemeanor penalties. Violators will be punished as follows, with the addition of driver’s license suspension, as described below:
- First violations. Violators will be fined up to $300, ordered to perform up to 30 hours of community service, or both (as decided by the judge).
- Second violations. Second violations carry a fine up to $600, and up to 60 hours of community service.
- Third violations. Third violations carry a fine up to $900, and up to 90 hours of community service. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 246(A).)
In addition to the above penalties, the judge will notify the Department of Public Safety, which will revoke the violator’s driver’s license for up to two years, or until the minor turns 21, as recommended by the judge. If the minor is not yet eligible to obtain a license, the time period of suspension will begin when the minor becomes eligible to apply for a license. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 107.1(B).)
Illegal entry into establishments licensed to sell alcohol. Minors who illegally enter (or attempt to enter), or remain in a bar, can be charged with a misdemeanor. If found guilty, the judge will fine the minor up to $10 and suspend the minor’s driver’s license as described above. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 246(B).)
Habitual violations. Usually, violations of Oklahoma’s minor in possession laws are not tried in juvenile court. However, if a minor younger than 18 violates these laws on a regular basis (as decided by a judge), a judge may refer the minor to juvenile court to determine—in addition to the above consequences— whether the minor is a delinquent child. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 246(E).)
Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor
It is illegal in Oklahoma to furnish alcohol to a minor, except under the circumstances described above (see “Exceptions to the Rule”). No one may sell, barter, give, or dispense alcohol to minors; and individuals working in establishments licensed to sell alcohol may not knowingly allow a minor to enter or remain in a separate or enclosed bar area that has a main purpose of selling alcohol. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 241(A)&(B).) The penalties for violating these rules are as follows:
- First violations. First violations carry misdemeanor charges. If convicted, violators will be fined up to $500, serve up to a year in the county jail, or both, as decided by the presiding judge.
- Second violations within one year of a first violation. Violators convicted of this misdemeanor will be fined up to $2,500, serve up to one year in county jail, or both.
- Third violations within one year of a first violation. This type of violation is a felony. Convicted offenders will be fined up to $5,000, imprisoned for up to five years, or both. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 241(D).)
Reasonable reliance on proof of age. Demanding and reasonably relying on proof of age (such as a driver’s license) will usually protect someone who accidently sells alcohol to a minor, from being convicted of the above violations. This protection applies if the minor presented what a reasonable person would have believed was government-issued identification showing the minor to be older than 21, and the seller had no reason to believe the buyer was nonetheless a minor. (Oklahoma Stat. Ann. Section 241(E)(1)&(2).)
Getting Legal Help
Because local procedures and attitude towards the Oklahoma minor in possession laws vary by community, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer who is familiar with how these cases are handled in your area. This will give you a better chance of achieving the most favorable outcome under the unique circumstances of your case.