Wisconsin Minor in Possession of Alcohol (MIP) Laws

A minor in Wisconsin may not possess or consume alcohol, falsely represent the minor’s age to obtain alcohol, or enter an establishment licensed to sell alcohol. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(3)&(4)(a).) There are several exceptions to these rules (see below).

Exceptions to the Rule

Wisconsin recognizes several exceptions to the minor in possession laws.

Parent, guardian, or adult spouse. A minor may purchase alcohol in a licensed establishment when the minor is accompanied by a parent, guardian, or adult spouse. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(4).)

Employment. A minor may possess—but not consume—alcohol during the course of the minor’s employment in a brewery, alcohol wholesaler establishment, licensed establishment, campus, or alcohol delivery service. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(3).)

Religious services. Minors may also possess and consume alcohol as part of religious services. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(3).)

Entry into licensed establishments. A minor may enter into a licensed establishment when accompanied by a parent, guardian, or adult spouse, or under the following circumstances:

  • When employed by a licensee (someone licensed to sell alcohol in Wisconsin) as a server or (minors between 18 and 20) as an entertainer
  • As a resident of a licensed establishment (such as in a boarding house connected to a bar)
  • As a patron purchasing something other than alcohol, as long as the minor leaves immediately after the purchase
  • As a patron of a hotel, grocery or drug store, or other establishment that also sells alcohol; and at restaurants where food service—not alcohol sales—is the main source of revenue
  • At sporting events, fishing establishments, or sports arenas (such as ski chalets or golf courses) where alcohol is served
  • When transacting business at an auction or market, as long as the minor is not in a room where alcohol is served
  • During dates or times when a licensed establishment specifies that no alcohol will be served
  • To attend a banquet, reception, or similar event in a licensed establishment
  • When attending a brewery tour
  • As a visitor at a Renaissance Faire in the city of Chippewa Falls. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(3).)

Penalties

Penalties for violating Wisconsin’s minor in possession laws are assessed as follows.

First offenses. A violator will be fined up to $500 for first violations, or if the violator has not committed other offenses under the minor in possession laws within the last 30 months. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(1)(b)(2)(a).)

Second offenses. If the second offense occurred within 30 months of a prior violation, the violator will be fined up to $500, spend up to 30 days in jail, or both (as decided by the judge). (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(1)(b)(2)(b).) A judge will also suspend the violator’s driver’s license for up to three days if the violation was committed within 12 months of a previous violation. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(1)(b)(3)(a).)

Third offenses. If the third offense occurred within 30 months of two prior violations, a violator will be fined up to $1,000, spend up to 90 days in jail, or both. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(1)(b)(2)(c).) A judge will also suspend the violator’s driver’s license for between three and ten days if the violation was committed within 12 months of two previous violations. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(1)(b)(3)(b).)

Subsequent offenses. If a subsequent offense occurred within 30 months of three or more prior violations, a violator will be fined up to $10,000, spend up to nine months in jail, or both. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(1)(b)(2)(d).) A judge will also suspend the violator’s driver’s license for between 15 and 30 days if the violation was committed within 12 months of three previous violations. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(1)(b)(3)(c).)

Penalty Suspension and Waiver

The judge may suspend any penalty for minor or adult violators while the judge allows the violator to participate in a court-approved alcohol abuse or education program. Upon successful completion, the judge has the discretion to waive any penalties that the violator would otherwise have had to pay; however, the judge may nonetheless decide to require the violator to pay any penalties that were suspended during the alcohol abuse or education program. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(4)(e)(2).)

Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor

It is illegal in Wisconsin for an adult to sell, furnish, or intentionally encourage alcohol consumption by a minor. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(1)(a).) Licensees who knowingly permit illegal alcohol consumption by minors in licensed establishments are punished according to the frequency of the offense (see below). All violations that occurred during the same incident (for example, a license both knowingly serving alcohol to a minor and also encouraging the minor to buy more) are counted as a single violation for punishment purposes. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(4)(cd).)

First offenses. Violations carry a fine of between $100 and $200, community service time (as deemed appropriate by the judge), and operation license suspension for 30 to 90 days; or any combination as decided by the judge. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(4)(c).)

Second offenses. Violations committed within 12 months of a previous violation may carry a fine of between $200 and $300, community service, and operation license suspension for up to one year. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(4)(c).)

Third and subsequent offenses. Violations committed within 12 months of two previous violations may carry a fine of between $300 and $500, community service, and operation license suspension for up to two years. For subsequent offenses within the 12 month period, the fine may be increased to between $500 and $1,000, in addition to the other penalties described for third offenses. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(4)(c).)

Defense to liability. Licensees who violate the law against selling alcohol to a minor may defend themselves from liability if they can prove that:

  • The purchaser falsely claimed to be older than 21, and supported the claim with documentation of age (such as a driver’s license or other form of ID)
  • The purchaser would have appeared to a reasonable person to be an adult
  • The sale was made in good faith reliance on the false claim and the purchaser’s appearance, and
  • The seller must have had no other reason to believe that the purchaser was underage. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(6)(a)-(d).)

Licensed establishments may keep a book on the premises where patrons have to sign in before being served or sold alcohol, and this book can help a licensee establish a defense to liability in the case of a good faith mistake. (Wis. Stat. Ann. Section 125.07(7).)

Getting Legal Help

Because local procedures and attitude towards the Wisconsin 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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