Our Proposal

We at Twenty-One Debunked propose the following changes be made regarding the drinking age and other alcohol laws:

  1. The general drinking and purchase age should be lowered to 18, with no age limit for drinking at home under direct parental supervision (within reason).
  2. The age limit for the zero tolerance law for DUI should remain as it is now, at 21. That should alleviate any fears of increased DUI among 18-20 year olds.  Even better would be making it last for the first five years of licensed driving regardless of age.
  3. The purchase age for kegs, cases, and other large bulk quantities of alcohol should remain at 21 (or 20), and no more than one off-premise alcohol transaction per day for those under that age. That should alleviate any fear of increased high school keggers.
  4. DUI laws should be further tightened for all ages and enforcement should be significantly increased.  Penalties should be steeply graduated based on BAC and number of offenses (see chart below).
  5. Any person of ANY age who is convicted of DUI, drunk violence, drunk vandalism, drunk rioting, furnishing to minors, or repeated drunk and disorderly conduct should be blacklisted and banned from purchasing alcohol (or even entering a bar) for a year or until they turn 21, whatever is longer. And their ID would have to read “Do not serve alcohol under penalty of law” in big red letters. In addition, problem drinkers can also have themselves voluntarily added to the blacklist for a fixed period of time, much like problem gamblers are currently allowed to do.
  6. Alcohol education should be increased for all students at all levels.  Some successful models to follow can be found here and here.
  7. Alcohol taxes should be raised and equalized to the inflation-adjusted 1991 spirits level ($21 per proof-gallon) for all alcoholic beverages, proportional to alcohol content.  (Microbrewers should be exempt from this tax hike, and would continue to pay the current low rates)  This would best be combined with a minimum price of $0.50-$1.00 per standard drink.
  8. Alcohol advertising, marketing, and outlet density should be more strictly controlled, and communities should have more latitude on these matters.
  9. Strictly enforce the new drinking age of 18, with the greatest focus on vendors. Any person who appears to be under 30 should have to show ID to purchase alcohol or tobacco, and anyone who appears to be under 18 should have to show two forms of ID.  If there must be penalties for underage drinking/possession, it should be a modest civil fine ($200 or less) with no criminal record, and perhaps an alcohol education course as well.
  10. Social host liability laws should be abolished or at least greatly reduced, as they most likely do more harm than good.
Do all or even some of these things and America's problems with alcohol abuse will most likely decrease dramatically, at least in the long run.
When we say graduated penalties for DUI, the table below is a good guide to what they should be:

BAC ThresholdFirst offenseSubsequent offenses within 10 years
(under 21 or novice, administrative only)

$250 fine ($500 if over 0.05)
30 day suspension
(90 day if over 0.05)
3 day impoundment

$500 fine
6 month suspension (2nd), 1 year revocation or until 21 (3rd or 2nd over 0.05)
7 day impoundment
Ignition interlock 1 year or until 21
(administrative only)

$500 fine
3 day suspension
3 day impoundment

$750 fine (2nd), $1000 (3rd)
30 day suspension (2nd), 1 year revocation (3rd)
7 day impoundment (2nd), 30 day impoundment (3rd)
Ignition interlock 1+ year 
$1000 fine
Minimum 1 year revocation
(or until 21, whatever is longer)
Mandatory 30 days in jail, up to 6 months
Ignition interlock 5+ years after re-license
$2500 fine
License revoked for at least 10 years (forever for 3rd offense)
Mandatory 1+ year in jail (possible felony)
Possible vehicle forfeiture upon conviction
$5000 fine
Minimum 5 year revocation
Mandatory 6 months jail, up to 1 year
Ignition interlock forever
$7500 fine
License revoked forever
Mandatory 5 years prison (felony)
Vehicle forfeiture upon conviction
$10,000 fine
Minimum 10 year revocation
Mandatory 1 year in prison, up to 5 years
Ignition interlock forever
$20,000 fine
License revoked forever
Mandatory 5+ years prison (felony)
Vehicle forfeiture upon conviction

In addition to (and independently of) criminal penalties, those who blow above 0.08 or refuse the test should be given the following immediate adminstrative penalties upon arrest:

Test failure, first offense:  90 day suspension, 7 day impoundment
Test failure, second offense in 5 years: 1 year suspension, 30 day impoundment
Test refusal, any offense:  1 year suspension, 30 day impoundment 

Conditional licenses should only be given for grave reasons, be highly restricted, and require ignition interlocks.

All offenses would require completion of an alcohol education program and alcohol abuse screening, paid for by the offender. 

Driving with a  BAC above 0.08 with kids under 16 in the car should be an automatic felony, and treated like 0.15+.

Differences from Choose Responsibility's proposal:

Unlike Choose Responsibility, Twenty-One Debunked does NOT support requiring 18-20 year olds to get a special "drinking license".  We feel that it is not only impractical, but ageist as well.  However, many in the movement may be concerned that our proposal does not do enough to address alcohol education for newly-legal drinkers.  Thus, while we are not wedded to the following provisions, and do not feel they are necessary, we would be willing to support them nonetheless:

11)  Phase-down the general drinking age from 21 to 18 over a period of a few months, rather than immediately.  For example, lower it to 20 after 30 days, 19 after 60 days, and finally 18 after 90 days from the passage of the new law.
12)  For the first year or two of the new policy, require 18-20 year olds to obtain a certificate from an alcohol education course in order to be allowed to purchase alcohol or enter a bar.  The course should be an online one such as AlcoholEdu, which has shown dramatic results despite taking only a few hours to complete.  Simple, yet highly effective.
13)  For anyone who is currently 17 or younger, require such individuals to take and pass that alcohol education course before their 18th birthday (or very shortly after), whether they plan on drinking or not.  Those who do not fulfill this requirement would have their driver license or state ID card temporarily suspended or voided until they pass, and/or be prevented from graduating high school until they pass.  Take it as many times as you wish, but charge a fee for the third time and afterwards.

Additional Ideas

Twenty-One Debunked has recently decided to add the following optional ideas to our proposal as well, albeit as lower-priority measures that should not be regarded as the sine qua non of our proposal:

14)  Legalize cannabis (weed) for anyone 18 and older, period.  That would provide young adults with a safer alternative to alcohol, though keep in mind that Twenty-One Debunked does not encourage the use of either substance, or any other drug for that matter.