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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Feb. 29, 2024

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With family visiting for the holidays, can minors drink legally at home? Here’s the WA law


With family and friends home for the holidays, it’s easy to loosen up and let an underage family member enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two. Or perhaps you’re home from college and looking to enjoy a couple of drinks with high school friends in the comfort of someone’s home.

Regardless of the situation, have you ever wondered about the legality behind parents who let their teenagers drink with them or in their house?

When WA minors can legally drink

Turns out, it is entirely legal in Washington state for a minor, aged younger than 21, to drink alcohol under their parent or guardian’s permission and supervision.

But it would be illegal to extend that courtesy to their child’s friends. Only with a parent or legal guardian’s permission and supervision is underage alcohol consumption allowed in Washington state, so if a group of teenagers is drinking, all of their parents need to consent and observe.

This is outlined by state law, and failing to abide by them is considered a gross misdemeanor.

Unless with parental supervision, it is also illegal for a minor to be in public, including in a car in public, after clearly having consumed alcohol. To be in violation of this code, the minor’s breath must smell like liquor and either be near a container of alcohol or obviously under the influence, shown through speech or behavior.

Legal exceptions:

  • Liquor for medicinal purposes from a parent, guardian, physician or dentist
  • Religious context, when minimal amount is consumed
  • Specific permitted exceptions, like scientific research

Can underage viticulture students drink in WA?

Washington state law also allows underage viticulture and related students to taste wine, but not drink it, for educational purposes. The student must be at least 18, and tasting must be monitored by faculty.

That said, Washington state offers legal protection for minors at medical facilities who experience alcohol poisoning, or bring in another minor experiencing alcohol poisoning. Youth cannot be charged for underage consumption based on information gathered from the medical visit.