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People under age 21 can legally drink in Missouri

Missouri allows underage people to drink at their parents' home when their parents are present.

December 04, 2012|by Joanna Small, KSPR News | Reporter and Photographer

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- If you're under the age of 21 and you live in Missouri, you can legally drink.  The idea behind this caveat -- and Missouri is certainly not alone in it -- is to give parents some control over their childrens' alcohol consumption by ensuring they're present when it happens.
Kyle Pierson just turned 21, and he enjoys a beer every once in a while.  But that's not much different from when he was 18, 19, and 20.

"My first drink was probably around high school," he said.
That's no secret now and wasn't a secret then.  Pierson's parents let him try alcohol at home -- legally.

"Underage drinking, under the age of 21, the law basically says you're not supposed to consume alcohol.  It would be a crime if you were caught in posession of alcohol and there's even a law that would allow the prosecution of consumption of alcohol if you're under 21," said Greene County Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Todd Myers.

The exception is if you do it at home with mom and dad's blessing. 


Thirty-three states allow for minors to drink under certain circumstances.  In 17 states, although they can't buy or possess alcohol, there's no consumption law; in five states, minors can drink alcohol anywhere as long as a parent is there.  Three states, including Missouri, allow underage people to drink with parental permission if it's happening in the parent's house, and eight states allow for underage drinking if the person is married, even if their spouse is underage as well.

That doesn't mean it's always okay though. 

"We've had cases in southwest Missouri where adults have provided alcohol to a very young child, almost a drinking game, to see what it would be like," Myerssaid.  "And there it doesn't matter if there's a parent/child relationship; the circumstances and amount of alcohol would rise to the level of a crime."

In 2003, Barbara Grimes served nine months in jail for allowing her child and others to drink at her house; a 16-year-old boy died.

"Thankfully those have been few and far between," says Myers.

And Greene County prosecutors say the little-known law loophole is designed to allow parents to teach their children responsible alcohol use.  Pierson says that's what happened in his house, and today he's not much of a drinker.

"Drinking to me wasn't a big deal," he said.
Tuesday afternoon, we asked our Facebook friends if they allow their underage children to drink at home, and we got an overwhelming response.  Many had no idea this was legal and would never let it slide.  Others said they know kids are going to do it anyway, so they'd rather them drink at home where there's parental supervision.

  Arkansas is one of the 17 states that prohibits underage drinking altogether.

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