Alcohol and the Law

Reviewed and updated:  July, 2012

For your sake, please make good choices about the use of alcohol and drugs. Such decisions ought to be respectful of one self and community values regarding other people and property. It is a crime for a person under the age of 21 years to drive, operate or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while consuming alcoholic beverages or after having consumed alcoholic beverages while there is physical evidence of the consumption present in the person's body.  The legal impact of choices about alcohol and drugs that violate the law can have serious and permanent career consequences.  Programs in the Personal and Professional Development Center, Residential Programs, Student Activities and Campus Ministry support such learning.

Following is information from regional attorneys and judges who deal with the legal consequences of violations.


Driving while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance (MSA 169A.20):

The DWI (DUI) law prohibits driving of a motor vehicle on a roadway or private property while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance or when the person has a blood alcohol concentration at 0.08 or above. A first time offense is a fine of about $400; second time, $1,000 and up to three weeks in jail. In addition to the criminal charge, the individual's driver's license is suspended for up to one year with a $200 license reinstatement fee, required participation in a DWI clinic at a cost of about $75 and note of conviction and suspension on the individual's driving record. If the individual is under 21 years of age, it is unlikely that he can get insurance; over 21, the insurance with one DWI would be increased by at least $15 a month, two DWIs $50 a month and a DWI with an accident, $100 a month if even insurable. Negotiated DWIs or unwillingness to take a breath test are usually considered as evidence of high risk by insurance carriers. A minor with a first DWI has a very difficult time getting insurance at any cost until reaching 25 years old (see also DWI; Alcohol, J-Book).


Under Age Drinking and Driving (MSA 169A.33):

It is a crime for a person under the age of 21 years to drive, operate, or be in physical control of a motor vehicle while consuming alcoholic beverages, or after having consumed alcoholic beverages while there is physical evidence of the consumption present in the person's body. 


Open Bottle Law (MSA 169A.35):

  • Drinking and Consumption:  It is a crime for a person to drink or consume an alcoholic beverage, distilled spirit or 3.2% malt liquor in a motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon a street or highway.
  • Possession:  It is a crime for a person to have in possession, while in a private motor vehicle upon a street or highway, any bottle or receptacle containing an alcoholic beverage, distilled spirit or 3.2% malt liquor that has been opened or the seal broken or the contents of which have been partially removed.
  • Liability of Non-present Owner:  It is a crime for the owner of any private motor vehicle or the driver, if the owner is not present in the motor vehicle, to keep or allow to be kept in a motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon a street or highway any bottle or receptacle containing a broken an alcoholic beverage, distilled spirit or 3.2% malt liquor that has been opened or the seal broken or the content of which have been partially removed.

Suspension;  Illegal purchase of alcohol (MSA 171.171):

The state shall suspend for a period of 90 days the license of a person who:

  • is under the age of 21 years and is convicted of purchasing or attempting to purchase an alcoholic beverage or if the person used a license, Minnesota identification card, or any type of false identification to purchase or attempt to purchase the alcoholic beverage
  • is convicted of lending or knowingly permitting a person under the age of 21 years to use the person's license, Minnesota identification card, or other type of identification to purchase or attempt to purchase an alcoholic beverage

Unlawful acts relating to driver's license (MSA 171.22):

A first time penalty of about $110 for displaying or having a fictitiously or fraudulently altered driver's license or for using another person's driver's license or to use the name and date of birth of another person or to use a fictitious name or date of birth to any police officer.


Obstructing the legal process, arrest or firefighting (MSA 609.50):

  • obstructs, hinders, or prevents the lawful execution of any legal process, civil or criminal, or apprehension of another on a charge or conviction of a criminal offense;
  • obstructs, resists, or interferes with a peace officer while the officer is engaged in the performance of official duties;
  • interferes with or obstructs a firefighter while the firefighter is engaged in the performance of official duties;
  • interferes with or obstructs a member of an ambulance service personnel crew, as defined in section 144E.001, subdivision 3a, who is providing, or attempting to provide, emergency care; or
  • depending on the incident, can be a gross misdemeanor with 90-364 days in jail and/or $1,00 - $3,000 fine.

False name to a peace officer (MSA 609.506):

A $200 fine for misrepresenting oneself, gives a fictitious name or false date of birth to a peace officer engaged in a lawful investigatory stop or arrest.  It is a gross misdemeanor to give another's name and date of birth to a peace officer with the intent of obstructing justice.


Criminal damage to property (MSA 609.595):

Intentional damage to the property of another is criminal. If in excess of $500 the charge is a felony; between $500 and $250, a gross misdemeanor; under $250 a misdemeanor.


Illegal possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages (MSA 340A.503):

To possess or consume alcoholic beverages under 21 years of age entails a typical first time penalty of about $150.


Providing Alcohol to Persons under 21/unlicensed alcohol sales (MSA 340A.503 and 340A.401):

  • 340A.503 - It is unlawful for any person to sell, barter, furnish or give alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 years of age.
  • 340A.401 - Prohibits a person from directly or indirectly, on any pretense or by any device, to sell, barter, keep for sale or otherwise dispose of alcoholic beverages as part of a commercial transaction if the person does not have a valid liquor license. A donation or purchase of a drinking container at an event violates this policy. A violation is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by jail for up to one year and a $3,000 fine. A sale of intoxicating liquor also exposes the seller to dram shop liability for any injury or damage caused by the person to whom the illegal sale was made.

Criminal sexual conduct in the first degree (MSA 609.342-345):

Various degrees of criminal sexual assault can be charged where there exist non-consensual conduct or where the victim is under a physical disability such as intoxication. Intercourse is not required to be charged. Offenses are a felony. Typical sentences range from six months in a county jail to several years at a state prison.  Second Degree (MSA 609.343); Third Degree (MSA 609.344); Fourth Degree (MSA 609.345)


Note: Violations of the above Minnesota statutes are at least misdemeanors which, if convicted, give the person a permanent criminal record. Some implications of a criminal record include probable difficulties securing employment or acceptance in graduate school and the easy resolution of any subsequent offense.

Contact Us

J-Book
Office of Student Development
Saint John's University
Collegeville, MN 56321
(320) 363-2737

Tonya Miller
Executive Secretary