Alcohol

Minors and Alcoholic Beverages

Iowa's Legal-Drinking Age

Iowa's 21-year-old legal-drinking age applies to everyone - patrons, agents, employees and the licensee's family members.

Licensees (their employees and agents) must exercise reasonable care to assure that a person is of legal-drinking age before selling or serving them an alcoholic beverage.

Liquor, wine, or beer may be given or dispensed to a person under legal age within a private home and with the knowledge, presence, and consent of the parent or guardian for beverage or medicinal purposes.

Iowa Code sections §123.47, 123.47(2) and §123.49(2)(h)

Age to be in Licensed Establishments

Iowa law does not prohibit minors from being in licensed establishments. However, licensees should check with their local authority to determine if there is an ordinance governing minors in licensed establishments. If the local authority has such an ordinance, the ordinance applies.

Iowa Code section §123.39(2), and 185-4.35 Iowa Administrative Code

Criminal Penalties for Sales-to-Minors Violations

When licensees (their employees and agents), sell, give, or otherwise supply an alcoholic beverage to someone under the legal-drinking age, licensees (their employees and agents) may be charged and convicted in criminal court. The criminal penalty imposed by the courts is a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,500 when the violation is committed by the licensee or $500 when the violation is committed by the licensee's employee or agent.

Iowa Code section §123.50(1)

Criminal Penalties for Minors

When a minor purchases or attempts to purchase, or has an alcoholic beverage in their control or possession, the minor may be charged and convicted in criminal court.

Following are the criminal penalties imposed by the courts for purchasing or attempting to purchase or controlling or possessing an alcoholic beverage:

  • First violation - simple misdemeanor punishable by a $100 fine.
  • Second violation - simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500. In addition to any other applicable penalty, the person in violation shall choose between either completing a substance abuse evaluation or the suspension of the person's motor vehicle operating privileges for a period not to exceed one year.
  • Third and subsequent violations - simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $500 and the suspension of the person's motor vehicle operating privileges for a period not to exceed one year.

When the violation is committed by a minor under age 18, the matter is handled by the juvenile court.

Iowa Code section §123.47

Administrative Sanctions for Sales-to-Minors Violations

Administrative sanctions are separate from criminal penalties. Both may be imposed. When licensees (their employees and agents) sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor, wine or beer to someone under the legal-drinking age, the following administrative sanctions may be imposed against the alcoholic beverages license.

  • First violation or first violation within two years - $500 civil penalty or 14-day license suspension.
  • Second violation in two years - 30-day license suspension and $1,500 civil penalty.
  • Third violation in three years - 60-day license suspension and $1,500 civil penalty.
  • Fourth violation in three years - revocation of the license.

Administrative sanctions are automatic (no administrative hearing held) when there is a criminal conviction under Iowa Code section §123.49(2)(h). When there is no criminal conviction, administrative sanctions are imposed through an administrative hearing.

Iowa Code sections §123.39(1)(c), §123.49(2)(h) and §123.50(3)