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Wisconsin, Minors, and Alcohol: A Premises Liability Guide

Like all states, Wisconsin’s minimum age to legally purchase alcohol is 21 years old.

However, Wisconsin law says that people under age 21 can legally possess and drink alcohol as long as they are with their parents, guardians, or spouses of legal drinking age while they are consuming it.

This law often results in parents giving their teenage children wine or champagne during the holidays or to celebrate special occasions. But some parents and guardians take it too far and host alcohol-fueled parties for their children and their children’s friends. Those children may drive home, putting themselves and others on the road at serious risk.

People Who Provide Alcohol to Underage Drivers Can Be Held Liable if They Cause Crashes

Wisconsin’s dram shop and social host liability law says that people generally can’t be held liable for selling, dispensing, or providing alcoholic beverages to another person. This statute covers businesses (such as liquor stores, bars, and restaurants) and individuals (such as people hosting private parties at their homes).

However, there is a major exception to this law: all of the above CAN be held liable when they provide alcohol to someone who is under the age of 21 and they knew or reasonably should have known that the person was underage.

That means parents who host parties where alcohol is consumed by underage individuals can be held liable if an underage drinker leaves their home and causes a crash, but they can’t be held liable if the driver who causes a crash is 21 years old or older.

Underage Drinkers Are Extremely Dangerous on the Road

Alcohol impairs everyone’s judgment, and its effects can be even more pronounced and debilitating for teens, whose brains are still developing.

Underage drinking is particularly dangerous when intoxicated minors get behind the wheel, as younger drivers are already more likely to cause crashes than older, more experienced drivers. When you add alcohol intoxication to the mix, their risk of causing accidents skyrockets.

Although Wisconsin law allows minors to drink while in the company of parents, guardians, and spouses of legal age, minors can’t get behind the wheel of a vehicle with any amount of alcohol in their bloodstream. The 0.08 blood alcohol content (BAC) legal limit for people 21 and up is instead 0.00 for people under age 21. Minors who are pulled over and found to have even 0.01 BACs can be arrested and charged with Operating While Intoxicated (OWI).

That means parents who allow minors to drink alcohol should never allow them to drive home, regardless of how little they’ve had to drink. Not only are they putting the minors at risk of an OWI and a serious crash, but they’re also putting themselves at risk of being held liable if a crash occurs.

Our Green Bay Car Accident Lawyers Help Drunk Driving Accident Victims

At Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers, we’ve seen firsthand the devastation that drunk driving accidents can cause to the lives of innocent people and their loved ones. People of all age groups can and do seriously injure and even kill others when they get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

If you or someone you love was hurt by a drunk driver, our Wisconsin auto accident attorneys want to help. We have the experience and resources your family needs to build a successful injury claim against the at-fault driver or even the person or establishment that served them if the driver was underage. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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