An overview of the underage drinking laws in Arkansas

Understanding the underage drinking laws in Arkansas may help minors protect themselves from unnecessary arrests and violations.

Often branching out on their own for their first time in their lives, it is common for college students in Arkansas and elsewhere to experiment with alcohol. If they are under the legal drinking age of 21-years-old, however, this could have serious implications on their futures. Therefore, it is important for minor-aged students to understand the state's underage drinking laws.

Purchase or possession by a minor

Under state law, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to buy alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine and spirits. Further, no one under the legal drinking age is permitted to have intoxicating liquors in their possession. Purchasing or having alcohol while underage may result in a purchase or possession by a minor charge. The exception to this rule is 18-year-olds who are employed by grocery stores or beer, wine or liquor wholesalers with parental permission and 19-year-olds and 20-year-olds working at licensed restaurants, hotels or private clubs.

A violation of this law carries penalties, including a fine of between $100 and $500. Additionally, those between the ages of 18 and 20-years-old may be subject to a 60-day suspension of their driver's licenses for a first-time offense, and they may be placed on under probationary conditions aimed at preventing them from committing additional violations. In some cases, the court may also see fit to order minors to write essays on alcoholic beverages.

Driving under the influence while underage

Drivers under the age of 21 may be charged with driving under the influence while underage if they are operating or are in physical control of a vehicle and have a BAC level of between 0.02 and 0.08. They may also be charged if law enforcement has reasonable suspicion that they are under the influence of alcohol or another such intoxicant. Underage DUI is considered a strict liability offense in Arkansas. This means that minor-aged drivers can be charged with this offense, even if they do not believe they were intoxicated or that they were under the limit.

An unclassified misdemeanor, minors convicted of underage DUI face a range of penalties. This includes a fine of between $100 and $500 for a first-time offense, mandatory public service, compulsory participation in an alcohol and driving education program or an alcoholism treatment program, and a 90-day driver's license suspension for a first-time offense.

Obtaining legal representation

An arrest for alcohol-related offenses can be serious for minors in Arkansas. Not only may it impact their personal lives, but it may also affect their education and employment opportunities. Therefore, it may be beneficial for students who have been charged with minor in possession of alcohol or underage DUI to obtain legal counsel. An attorney may advise them of what steps to take, as well as help them build a defense against the charges they are facing.