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The consequences of underage drinking in Iowa

Prom and graduation season, followed by a long, hot summer, increases the chances of teens drinking alcohol. It can be easy to get a hold of alcohol, either from a parent’s liquor supply, an older friend or thanks to a fake ID and a not-very-observant clerk at a convenience store.

The consequences can go far beyond a bad hangover. Law enforcement officers can arrest middle school, high school and even younger college students for underage drinking. 

It’s important for parents and their kids to know the law here in Iowa. It’s illegal to consume alcohol, except for a few select exceptions in the home, if you’re not yet 21. Unless a local ordinance says otherwise, it’s not illegal for a minor to be in an establishment that sells alcohol, as long as they aren’t purchasing or consuming it.

The penalties for underage drinking

Juvenile courts handle cases involving minors (those under 18). A minor could face juvenile delinquency charges for drinking while underage. Those 18 to 20 who possess, control or purchase alcohol can face a $100 fine for their first violation. The fine for a second violation increases by $500. Anyone with a second offense must also complete a substance abuse evaluation or have their driver’s suspended for up to a year. A third or subsequent violation carries a maximum $500 fine and a yearlong license suspension. In all cases, these are considered simple misdemeanors.

Whether your child is 12 or 20, you don’t want them to have to deal with the consequences that violating underage drinking laws can have on their future. It might be tempting to let them face the consequences, especially if you know that they’re guilty. However, it’s best to provide them with experienced legal guidance, whether they’re going through the juvenile or adult justice system.