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Keep the legal Arizona drinking age at 21 years-old

Posted by Craig Penrod | Mar 14, 2014 | 0 Comments

While the legal drinking age in the state of Arizona remains at 21, a high number of high school and college students continue to ignore state law. Some people have argued that limiting access to alcoholic beverages can be repressive, leading to over-consumption, binge-drinking, accidents and other alcohol-related deaths, particularly those caused by driving under the influence (DUI).

In Tempe, Phoenix or other communities in Maricopa County, it is important that you consult Arizona lawyers experienced in DUI and related offenses like those associated with the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod, P.C.

Some have argued that by reducing the drinking age to 18 in the United States, as it is in most European countries, that action could significantly reduce the number of alcohol-related injuries and motor vehicle accidents. However, findings published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs argue the wisdom for keeping the legal drinking age at 21. The researchers claimed, using federal and state data, that a lower legal drinking age does not reduce DUI-related accidents or underage drinking. According to the reports, keeping the drinking age at 21 prevents DUI and other criminal offenses related to underage consumption. More importantly prevents untimely death related to alcohol.

The repeal of prohibition by the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution on Dec. 5, 1933 allowed each state to set its own alcohol consumption laws. At that time, most states established the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) for alcohol at 21 years of age. Following the July 1, 1971 passage of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the legal voting age from 21 to 18 years of age, 30 U.S. states lowered their MLDA to 18, 19, or 20. By 1982, only 14 states still had an MLDA of 21.

The enactment of the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984 prompted most states to raise their legal age for purchase or public possession of alcohol to the age of 21. Failing to take that action would have resulted in the states risking the loss of millions in federal highway funds. By 1988, all 50 states had raised their MLDA to 21. The state of California and Oregon have the nation's oldest MLDA 21 laws having been enacted in 133, while South Dakota (April 1, 1988) and Wyoming (July 1, 1988) have the most recent MLDA 21 laws.

According to a study title: "An Impact Assessment of Arizona's Lowered Legal Drinking Age and a Review of the Previous Research," conducted by the Arizona Department of Public Safety Operational and Management Analysis Section Statistical Analysis Center and published in December 1983 lowering the legal drinking age to 19 years-old in August 1972 by the Arizona Legislature was a mistake.

Based upon previous research findings, the study hypothesized that lowering the minimum legal drinking age in Arizona had resulted in increased fatalities, increased fatal accidents, and increased drinking among law-affected youths. This hypothesis was confirmed. The analysis found that the change in drinking age produced a 23 percent increase in beer sales, a 26 percent increase in fatal crashes, and most significant of all, a 36 percent increase in traffic deaths. Nevertheless, the sale of hard liquor did not increase significantly as a result of the liberalized drinking law.

The increased availability of alcoholic beverages due to the lowered legal drinking age resulted in a significant increase in the consumption of wine. The importance of this impact can be better addressed in relation to beer sales. An examination of relevant research material reveals that the lowering of the legal drinking age in Arizona produced a statistically sIgnificant 8 percent increase in beer consumption:

  • beer Is the preferred alcoholic beverage of young people;
  • beer has a much higher proportion of involvement in traffic accidents than any other alcoholic beverage; and
  • in previous evaluations of lowered drinking ages, beer has been the only alcoholic beverage to increase significantly in sales as a result of the change in law.

It has been suggested that the legal drinking age law is largely ignored by teenagers and college students who continue to be arrested and charged with DUI and underage drinking. These arrests and convictions can have a long-lasting impact on their education and their future. Beyond the fines and license loss, it could mean the loss of a job, the loss of a scholarship and a permanent criminal record that could serve as a hindrance to future employment.

Unfortunately, college students and other youth are especially vulnerable to aggressive prosecution because they may have difficulty paying private attorney's fees and they are hesitant to ask their parents for help. What many fail to overlook is that parents want what is best for their future. They may not be thrilled with a lapse in judgment, but they don't want their child to suffer severe and life-long consequences as a result.

The national minimum drinking age was established in 1984. Even though young people may seem to ignore underage drinking laws, there is evidence to suggest that, at least for some, they do serve as a deterrent.

It is important that your legal situation should be handled by expert professionals with the experience possessed by the attorneys at the Law Offices of Craig W. Penrod, P.C. Our office offers free consultations for all DUI and criminal matters. Our Arizona DUI attorneys and Arizona criminal lawyers can provide you with the experience and knowledge needed for qualified representation. An experienced Arizona DUI lawyer is vital in DUI cases and our DUI attorneys set that standard. If you're in need of a criminal defense, our Arizona criminal attorneys are ready to assist you.

About the Author

Craig Penrod

Craig W. Penrod was born and raised in Arizona and has practiced criminal defense for over 30 years. Mr. Penrod is a member of the State Bar of Arizona, Maricopa County Bar Association, State of Nevada Bar Association, American Bar Association, American Trial Lawyers Association, Arizona Trial Lawyers Association, Nevada Trial Lawyers Association, Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

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