Underage Drinking

Tennessee

The policy topics, below, address statues and regulations related to underage drinking and access to alcohol.

Internal possession is not explicitly prohibited.

Purchase is prohibited, but youth MAY PURCHASE for law enforcement purposes.

  • Beer: 18 for both servers and bartenders
  • Wine: 18 for both servers and bartenders
  • Spirits: 18 for both servers and bartenders

Provision(s) targeting minors:

  • Use of a false ID to obtain alcohol is a criminal offense
  • No driver's license suspension procedure

Provision(s) targeting retailers:

  • Licenses for drivers under age 21 are easily distinguishable from those for drivers age 21 and older
  • Specific affirmative defense - the retailer inspected the false ID and came to a reasonable conclusion based on its appearance that it was valid

Notes:
In Tennessee, APIS bases coding for the Specific Affirmative Defense afforded to retailers on Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-5-108. This statute provides that no permit or license shall be revoked on the grounds that the operator or any person working for the operator sells beer to a minor over the age of 18 years if such minor exhibits an identification, false or otherwise, indicating the minor's age to be 21 or over, if the minor's appearance as to maturity is such that the minor might reasonably be presumed to be of such age and is unknown to such person making the sale. As of July 1, 2006, it is also an affirmative defense to criminal prosecution if any person accused of giving or buying alcoholic beverages or beer for a minor acted upon a reasonably held belief that the minor was of legal age. Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15-404. APIS does not rely on this statute for coding of a General Affirmative Defense because § 57-5-108 applies more specifically to retailers.

BAC limit: 0.02 - a BAC level above the limit is per se (conclusive) evidence of a violation.

Applies to drivers age 16 or above.

Applies to drivers under age 21.

Tennessee has two Use/Lose laws:

  1. Type(s) of violation leading to driver's license suspension, revocation, or denial:
    • Underage purchase
    • Underage possession
    • Use/lose penalties apply to minors under age 21
    • Authority to impose driver's license sanction
      • mandatory
    • Length of suspension/revocation: 365 days
  2. Type(s) of violation leading to driver's license suspension, revocation, or denial:
    • Underage purchase
    • Underage possession
    • Underage consumption
    • Use/lose penalties apply to minors under age 18
    • Authority to impose driver's license sanction
      • mandatory
    • Length of suspension/revocation: 365 days

Notes:
In Tennessee, the driving privileges of an offender shall be suspended for one year, or until the offender reaches 17 years of age, whichever is longer.

Social host law is not specifically limited to underage drinking parties.

Action by underage guest that triggers violation: Consumption

Property type(s) covered by liability law:

  • Residence
  • Outdoor
  • Other

Standard for hosts' knowledge or action regarding the party: KNOWLEDGE - host must have actual knowledge of the occurrence

Notes:
Social host liability in Tennessee is limited to an owner, occupant or other person having a lawful right to the exclusive use and enjoyment of property to knowingly allow an "underage adult" to consume alcoholic beverages, wine or beer on the property . An "underage adult" is defined as a person who is at least 18 years of age but less than 21 years of age. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15-404