Oregon Minor in Possession of Alcohol: Laws & Penalties

A minor in Oregon may not buy (or attempt to buy) alcohol, or have alcohol in the minor’s possession. It is also illegal for a minor to enter an establishment licensed to sell alcohol (for example, a bar or night club) that does not allow minors. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.430(1),(2)&(3).) Minors may not use false identification (or other misrepresentations) to obtain alcohol, or to get into an establishment that serves alcohol and does not allow minors. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Sections 165.805(1)(a)&(3); 471.430(3).) There are few exceptions to these rules (see below).

Exceptions to the Rule

Oregon recognizes five exceptions to the general rule prohibiting minors from possessing or consuming alcohol, or entering establishments that serve alcohol and do not allow minors.

Employment. An establishment licensed to sell alcohol may employ minors between 18 and 20 years old to work in areas where minors are allowed (such as within a restaurant). These employees may serve and sell alcohol, when the service or sale is incidental to food service, and may enter into bar areas usually prohibited to minors, for an amount of time necessary to pick up alcohol to be served in the restaurant area. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.482(1)&(2).) A minor may also enter into establishments licensed to sell alcohol as part of the minor’s employment, as long as the minor does not stay longer than it takes to do the work (for example, being hired to paint the walls of a bar, or to install a new appliance or fixture). (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.482(3).)

Private property with parent or guardian. Minors may possess and consume alcohol on private property, when a parent or guardian is present and has consented to such possession and consumtion. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.430(1).)

Religious participation. A minor may possess and consume sacramental wine as a participant in a religious rite or service. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.430(2).)

Emergencies. A minor may enter into an establishment licensed to sell alcohol under emergency conditions. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.430(3).)

Sting investigations. Minors may misrepresent their age (orally, by using a false ID, or through other means), if the minor is acting under the Oregon Liquor Control Commission’s direction as part of a sting operation, wherein the commission is investigating possible violations of the minor in possession laws by licensed establishments. Under this exception, a minor is not liable for fines or other damages that a licensee might incur if the licensee is caught. A minor may also misrepresent the minor’s age under the direction of a licensee—someone licensed to sell alcohol in Oregon—who is investigating possible violations by employees. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.567(3)&(4); 165.805(4)&(5).)

Penalties

The consequences of violating Oregon’s minor in possession laws depend on the violation.

Misrepresenting age. A minor who misrepresents the minor’s age to buy or consume alcohol can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 165.805(4)&(5).) If, through misrepresenting the minor’s age, a minor causes a licensed establishment to incur fines or lose its license, the minor will be responsible for fines and other money damages, which may include reasonable attorney’s fees incurred by the licensed establishment in defending its case. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.567(3)&(4).) Additionally, the judge may order the minor to perform community service, and must order the minor’s driving privileges (or right to apply for a license) suspended for up to one year. However, a minor may petition the court to withdraw the license suspension, or request a hardship permit; it is within the judge’s discretion whether to grant these requests. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 165.805(3).)

Purchase (or attempted purchase); illegally entering alcohol-selling establishments. Minors who violate either of these rules can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor. In addition to the applicable penalties for this type of misdemeanor, the judge may also order the minor to perform community service, and must suspend the minor’s driving privileges (or right to apply for a license) for up to one year. The judge may also withdraw the license suspension or issue a hardship permit, as described above. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.430(4)(a)&(5).)

Alcohol possession while operating a motor vehicle. This kind of violation is a Class A misdemeanor. The community service and license suspension guidelines described above apply to this type of violation in addition to applicable penalties. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.430(4)(b).)

Court-ordered assessment and treatment. For first-time violations, a judge may order the minor to undergo alcohol abuse assessment and treatment, in addition to other fines or penalties that may apply. For second and subsequent violations, the judge must order such assessment and treatment. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.430(7).)

Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

It is illegal in Oregon to furnish alcohol to a minor. This includes selling, giving, or otherwise making alcohol available while having reason to know that the recipient is a minor. This rule applies both to people serving alcohol in licensed establishments, and to people allowing minors to possess alcohol on their private property (including tenants in rental housing). (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.410(1).) The judge may also order the violator of any of these rules to perform community service, or pay restitution (money fines) for damage to the property where the alcohol was illegally consumed. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.410(7).)

Knowingly providing alcohol to minors. A violation of this law is a Class A misdemeanor. A first conviction carries a fine of at least $500; second convictions are fined at least $1,000; and subsequent convictions carry a fine of at least $1,500 plus at least 30 days—but no more than one year—in jail (as decided by the sentencing judge). (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.410(5).) The judge may waive up to one third of the fine, or up to $200 (whichever is less; if the violator performs at least 30 hours of community service approved by the judge. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.410(7).)

Licensees who do not act knowingly. For licensees or their employees who accidently serve alcohol to a minor, the mandatory minimum fines are as follows. They are all Class A misdemeanors.

  • First convictions. This violation carries a minimum fine of $350.
  • Second convictions. The minimum fine for a second conviction is $720.
  • Third convictions. Third convictions carry a minimum fine of $1,000.
  • Fourth and subsequent convictions. The minimum fine is $1,000, plus at least 30 days—but no more than one year—in jail. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.410(6)(b).)

Knowingly allowing minors to drink on private property. An adult who knowingly allows a minor (who is not that adult’s child or ward) to possess or consume alcohol on the adult’s private property may be fined $350 for a first violation, and $1,000 for second and subsequent violations. (Oregon Rev. Stat. Ann. Section 471.410(9)(a)&(b).)

Getting Legal Help

Because prosecutors' and judges' attitudes towards the Oregon 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.

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