New Hampshire Minor in Possession of Alcohol Laws

Illegal For Minors to Consume or Possess Alcohol

In most situations, it is illegal for any person younger than 21 years of age to be intoxicated from or possess an alcoholic beverage. A minor in New Hampshire is considered intoxicated if he or she has a blood alcohol concentration of .02 percent. Any minor who violates this statute for the first time will be charged with a violation and forced to pay a fine of at least $300 and the court will confiscate any alcoholic beverage found in a violating minor’s possession. A second time offender will face a fine of at least $600. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:10.)

Minor Attempting to Purchase Alcohol

In New Hampshire, it is illegal for any minor to purchase or possess an alcoholic beverage with the intent of purchasing it. Any minor that breaks this law will be charged with a violation. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:10-a.)

Sales to a Minor

New Hampshire prohibits any person from selling, delivering or giving an alcoholic beverage (including alcoholic cider) to any person younger than 21 years old. Any person who delivers a package containing alcohol must obtain a signature from a person 21 years or older upon delivering the package. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:5 and N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:6.)

Minors Not Allowed On Licensed Premises

Any person who is in charge of a licensed business or works as an employee for a licensed business must not allow a person younger than 21 years of age to possess or consume alcohol on the business’s premises. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 179:5.)

Minor “Entertainer”

In New Hampshire, it is illegal for any licensed business to allow an entertainer who is 17 years old or younger to perform in an area of the business where alcoholic beverages are sold. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 179.19 (III).)

New Hampshire “Sting” Operations

New Hampshire law enforcement officers may carry out operations to catch violators of New Hampshire’s illegal sales codes. Any person who is not acting under the direction of law enforcement and sells alcohol to a minor during an enforcement operation will be charged with a violation. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 179:5-b.)

Minor Employed at Licensed Businesses

Generally, licensed businesses in New Hampshire are prohibited from allowing employees younger than 18 years of age to sell, serve, or handle alcoholic beverages. There are, however, specific rules allowing minors younger than 18 years of age to perform specific tasks for licensed businesses. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 179:23.)

Off Licensees

An “off licensee”, meaning a licensed business that sells alcohol so that it may be consumed at another location, may employ a minor who is at least 15 years old to deliver alcohol that is in its original container to these specific places:

  • to customers located inside the premises of the off licensee
  • to the purchaser’s car parked in the off licensee parking lot, or
  • to the purchaser’s car parked adjacent to the off licensee parking lot.

A minor who is 16 years of age may work as a cashier at an off-licensee as long as he or she is working under the supervision of another employee who is in charge of the business and is at least 18 years of age. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:23(I).)

Other Licensed Businesses

A licensed business that sells alcohol for consumption on its premises (bars, saloons, restaurants, lounges, etc.,) may employ a minor who is 15 years old to work only in dining areas, while a 16 year old may work in both dining and lounge areas to bus tables and stock business inventory. An employee younger than 18 years of age must be under the supervision of an employee who is both in charge of the business and at least 18 years of age. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:23(II).)

Minor Misrepresents Age

In New Hampshire, it is illegal for any person to misrepresent his or her age when purchasing or attempting to purchase alcohol. It is also illegal for any person to present or even possess any document or identification card that misrepresents his or her age. A violator of this section will be charged with a misdemeanor and may be forced to pay a fine of at least $500 for a first offense and at least $1,000 for any subsequent violation. These amounts are mandatory and no court may alter or suspend any part of the fines imposed by this law. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:9.)

Suspension of New Hampshire Licenses

Any identification card issued by the state of New Hampshire that is used to purchase liquor for a minor will be suspended for 90 days. Also, any person who permits his or her identification card to be used by another person to buy alcohol will have the identification card suspended by the New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles for 90 days. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:9(III).)

Defense for Illegal Sale to a Minor

Someone who has been charged with the illegal sale of alcoholic beverages to a minor may claim the following as a defense:

  • the minor presented an official identification card or document showing he or she was 21 years old
  • the minor provided the seller with a written or signed statement that he or she was 21 years or older
  • the seller believed the minor purchasing the alcohol appeared to be at least 21 years old and it was reasonable to do so, and
  • the seller relied, in good faith, on all of these facts in making the sale to a minor. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:8.)

Acceptable Forms of Identification

If a seller of alcohol suspects that a customer buying alcohol may not be 21 years of age, New Hampshire requires that the seller ask for and receive documentation from the purchaser proving that he or she is 21 years of age or older. The following forms of identification are acceptable to prove someone’s age in New Hampshire:

  • a valid driver’s license issued by any U.S. state or Canadian province, which has the driver’s picture, date of birth, name, and address
  • an official card issued by New Hampshire’s Division of Motor Vehicles or any other official identification card issued by the U.S. state which has the carrier’s picture, date of birth, name, and address
  • a military identification card
  • a valid passport from another country as long as the U.S. maintains diplomatic relations with that country.

Any photographic identification produced by a customer purchasing alcohol must be clear, unaltered, and may not be expired. (N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 179:8.)

Violation of Any New Hampshire Underage Alcohol Laws is a Misdemeanor

Unless the penalties for breaking a specific law are provided in the statute, any person who violates an alcohol related offense will be charged with a misdemeanor and may face a fine of up to $2000 and up to 1 year in jail. (N.H. Rev. Stat. § 179:58, N.H. Rev. Stat. 625:9, and N.H. Rev. Stat. § 651:2(IV)(a).)

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