National Minimum Drinking Age Act

The statue for South Dakota v Dole is found within Title 23 U.S.C. § 158. The breakdown of this is, Title 23, highways, Chapter one, Federal Aid Highways and Section 158, National Minimum Drinking Age. Under this Statute, the Secretary is to withhold 10 per centum of funds, to be apportioned to states beginning after September 30, 1985, from states refusing to raise their drinking age to 21.

An Alcoholic Beverage, under this section, is defined by law, as “beer as defined in section 5052(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986”, “wine of not less than one-half of 1 per centum of alcohol by volume” or “distilled spirits as defined in section 5002(a)(8) of such Code”. Alcohol, is thus narrowed down to beer, wine; greater than one-half per cent, or distilled spirits. Since the Statute was enacted, the withholding of funds rate, as at 2012, has been lowered from ten per centum to eight per centum.

According to the Statute, as at October 1, 1986, states with a law created to make the legal drinking age 21 are deemed in compliance with the federal law. It explicitly states that funds withheld, would not be made available to the states who are not in compliance with this order. The Statute was passed in 1985 and since then, it has been amended three times; in 1986, 1998 and 2012. It establishes the national drinking age, clearly defines what an alcoholic drink is, and apportions funds to be given to states in compliance with the law.


“23 U.S. Code § 158 – National Minimum Drinking Age.” LII / Legal Information Institute. Cornell University Law School, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

“U.S.C. Title 23 – HIGHWAYS.” U.S.C. Title 23 – HIGHWAYS. U.S. Government Publishing Office, n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2015.

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