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Conway Criminal Law Blog

When can a person under age 21 legally be given alcohol?

It is common knowledge that you cannot sell alcohol to a person under age 21 in South Carolina. Failing to check a customer’s identification is considered evidence that the sale was illegal, unless proven otherwise, and the purchaser of the alcohol can also be punished.

However, what if you simply gave the alcohol to someone or allowed them to drink alcohol in your home? This is especially common at house parties thrown by college students. Will these students, or others, be penalized for providing alcohol to minors?

Giving alcohol to minors

It is against the law to give alcohol to a person under age 21, with the intention that they will drink it. Doing so is a misdemeanor crime and can lead to a $300 fine or 30 days in prison for a first offense, and a $500 fine or 30 days in prison for a second or subsequent offense.


However, there are some interesting exceptions in which a person under age 21 can be given alcohol for the purpose of consumption.

One exception is if police have recruited a minor to test a person’s compliance with this law. This does raise questions of whether this constitutes entrapment by police.

A second exception is that a spouse over age 21 is allowed to give their partner alcohol in their home, even if their partner is under age 21. Similarly, parents over age 21 are allowed to give their children alcohol in their homes, even if the child is under age 21.

Another exception exists for people under age 21 who are given alcohol as part of a religious ceremony, under the condition that the alcohol was purchased legally.

And, there is an exception for culinary students who are age 18 or older, and are required to taste, but not consume, alcohol during class as part of their required curriculum and that the alcohol given to them is only for educational purposes. The alcohol must stay in the possession of the teacher who must be at least age 21.

So, it is likely that a college student who furnishes alcohol to underage drinkers at a house party could face penalties for doing so if caught. But there are a few exceptions to the rule that might apply in certain situations.