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U.S. Travel Information

Alcohol Rules

First of all: the national minimum legal drinking age is still 21 years. It's also still the highest in the world and a controversial topic among the public, politicians, physicians and others.
In general every state has the right to establish own laws - these are called the MLDA laws. Every state including D.C. has them.
To be at age 21 or older does not mean that you have the right to drink everywhere you want to. In the first place the meaning is that one is allowed to purchase alcohol and i.e. to consume alcohol in pubs, restaurants etc. - but everybody should strictly be aware of additional regulations, i.e. don't drink on streets or in your car. Obey sign which indicate that it is not allowed to bring or consume alcohol, i.e. at beaches (at least at many of them).
When traveling check local laws: it might be that you're not able to buy alcohol on Sundays in some counties or cities. Some other places allow only to buy alcoholic beverages with less than 3.2 vol%. These are the so-called "3.2's".
The French Quarter in New Orleans seems to be dedicated to drinking folks - here you may also enjoy alcoholic beverages in public.
Sometimes a visitor will notice folks with little brown bags in public. This is a well-known way of 'hiding' and camouflage alcoholic beverages. Even when everybody 'knows', you're 'not really' drinking in public, at least nobody 'will know' what is inside the bag. Tricky - isn't it? But anyway, don't be misled and think that you can do this wherever you want to - it's not allowed, it' s just a way not to provoke and to earn some toleration.
ID check
Be prepared to be asked for a photo ID when buying or ordering alcohol - at least when you look young.
Liquor Licenses
Any establishment intending to sell alcohol needs this special license. It's not cheap for them to obtain it but alcohol beverages make up a noticeable portion of their earnings. most restaurants (except or Fast Food Chains) have this license.
If not you cannot take it for granted that you are allowed to 'bring your own' (BYO). BYO exists but is definitely not that common as it is in England, Australia, New Zealand and other countries.
Indian Reservations
It not allowed there to sell or drink alcohol. Possession might be prohibited!
Open Container Law
That means that you never should store opened bottles (of course with alcohol in it) in your car except of the trunk. When within reach of the passengers it would be a violation of law. Of course are many officers tolerant - in particular when there's no alcohol odor streaming out of the car... . Your car is of course not searched just when you run into a normal traffic control! But keep the law in mind.


The National Minimum Drinking Age Act (or also called: Uniform Drinking Age Act) of 1984 (98th Congress) required all states to comply in order to receive funds for their highway development projects.
This Act demands to raise the minimum age to 21 years in order to purchase alcohol and to possess Alcohol in public.
In general every state is now in compliance with this Act.
Regarding the legal drinking age there might be several exceptions - every state regulates them; i.e. it's not unusual that it is allowed to consume alcohol during religious ceremonies even when the minimum age of 21 is not reached. Such exceptions are often made for so-called 'controlled environments' - but what this might be can't be described here. Please study the MLDA law of the state of interest.
This is the abbreviation for Blood Alcohol Concentration. 
How much is allowed that depends on the state law.
BAC 0.1 means, that the amount of alcohol in the blood makes up 1/10 of one percent; other countries say 1 Promille (i.e. Germany, Italy).
Most states allow 0.08 BAC, but some raised this to 0.10. 
Many states incorporated the Zero Tolerance Rule, which means that a driver under age 21 is not allowed to have any measurable alcohol in his blood.

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Source: magazineUSA.com
Last modified: 20040801
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