Teenage boys grabs a beer at a barbecue.

DC Laws on Underage Drinking

DC has strict laws and penalties for serving alcohol to underage individuals, drinking and driving, and for drinking underage. Read up on the laws below or visit our DC Laws page for specific information on the penalties.

Serving Alcohol

  • In DC, it’s illegal to serve or sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.
  • DC has no family or location exceptions to its underage drinking laws. That means offering alcohol to underage youth or a family member is illegal!
  • DC permits adults ages 18 and up to serve alcohol at licensed establishments, but an employee must be at least 21 years old to become a bartender.

Business owners, selling alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 can lead to fines up to $10,000 and a license suspension of up to a year for your establishment.

Underage Drinking

  •  It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to consume alcohol or be caught with alcohol in his or her system by a blood, breath, or urine test.
  • It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to purchase, attempt to purchase, possess, or drink an alcoholic beverage.
  • Having a fake ID is a criminal offense and can result in a driver’s license suspension.

Drinking and Driving

  • Anyone under 21 caught driving with a blood alcohol content above 0 percent will be immediately cited for Driving While Intoxicated, or a DWI.

Alert IconIn DC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 7.8 percent of high schoolers reported driving a car or other vehicle after drinking alcohol.