New Orleans Nightlife and the law

Mary Graci

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It’s a common misconception that where alcohol and New Orleans are considered, age doesn’t really matter. No one cares if you drink in college right? Even if you are under age? Well, whether your experiences reflect that mindset or not, you need to know the law.

In Louisiana, the legal drinking age is 21. For anyone under the age of 21, it is illegal to purchase or “publicly possess” alcohol. “Public possession” includes possession of any alcoholic beverage for any reason or consumption, on any street or highway or in any public place or any place open to the public.

However, it is legal for someone under 21 to drink under the following circumstances: (1) for an established religious purpose, (2) when accompanied by a parent, spouse, or legal guardian 21 years of age or older, (3) for medical purposes when purchases over the counter or prescribed by a medical professional, (4) or in a private residence.

If you are caught trying to purchase alcohol underage, or are caught “publicly possessing” an alcoholic beverage, you can be fined $100 or imprisoned for up to six months, or both, and you may have your license suspended for up to 180 days.

It is illegal for someone (besides a parent, spouse or legal guardian 21 years of age or older) to purchase alcohol on behalf of someone under 21. That person, if caught, could be fined $500 or imprisoned for up to 30 day, or both.

If you are caught trying to buy alcohol with a fake ID, the penalty will most likely include suspension of your driver’s license.

If you are under 21 and caught once you are already drunk, Louisiana has no legal prohibitions in place. However, if caught drunk in public, you could be fined for public intoxication (or disturbing the peace) if the officer finds you to be overtly hostile towards bystanders or excessively loud in a residential neighborhood late at night. And if caught drunk on Loyola’s campus, the school can take disciplinary actions against you and contact your parents. If you return to the dorm buildings drunk (at any age), the desk assistant is required to stop you from returning to your room and call an ambulance to take you to the nearest hospital.

However, there is no state-imposed liability for hosting underage drinking parties.

So, the moral of the story is be responsible and know the law.

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