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Five Fact Friday - Prohibition

Five Fact Friday - Prohibition

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the implementation of the Prohibition laws in the United States of America.  With this in mind, we present five intoxicating facts relating to various laws surrounding alcohol for you to keg back and enjoy.

1. Biting off more than they can brew?

Often cited as one of the UK’s more unusual laws, it is in fact illegal to be drunk on licensed premises. Section 12 of the Licensing Act 1872 states “Every person found drunk in any highway or other public place, whether a building or not, or on any licensed premises, shall be liable to a penalty”. 

But it’s not just the pub clientele that may be breaking the law.  Under the Metropolitan Police Act 1839, the keeper of a public house commits an offence if they permit drunkenness or disorderly conduct on their premises.  It is also an offence to sell alcohol to a person who is drunk or to obtain alcohol for a drunk person to consume, under the Licensing Act 2003.

2. Casking for trouble

Here in the UK, it is a criminal offence to be drunk in charge of a motor vehicle.  The legal limit of Blood Alcohol Content is 0.08% in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 0.05% in Scotland, although one can still be prosecuted if they are below this level but found to be unfit to drive through drink.  Those found guilty of drink-driving can face up to six months in prison, a fine of up to £5,000 and will be disqualified from driving for at least 12 months. 

According to some sources, the maximum penalty for drunk-driving in El Salvador is death by firing squad, even if it is a first offence.  However, the firing squad is only sanctioned in very rare and exceptional cases in the country so it is unlikely to ever be used in these circumstances.

3. Some beerwildering laws

Many US states have unusual laws surrounding alcohol.  For example, in Alaska it is illegal to give alcohol to a moose and in Ohio, it is illegal to give alcohol to fish.  Up until 2009, it was illegal in Utah for a bartender to pour or mix a customer’s drink in front of them leading to most bars installing a piece of frosted glass at bars.  It is also illegal to drink whilst on horseback in Colorado (although this law seems quite sensible to me). 

Here in the UK, under the Licensing Act 1872, “every person who is drunk while in charge on any highway or other public place of any carriage, horse, cattle or steam engine or who is drunk when in possession of any loaded firearms” can be fined or imprisoned for up to one month.

4. Kicking up a drink

Under the Licensing Act 2003, police powers were extended to enable them to seek a court order to close licensed premises in any area which is experiencing, or is likely to experience, disorder.  Such closure notices must be issued by an officer of the rank of Inspector or above and can last for up to 48 hours.  However, under section 90 of the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, a person that has incurred financial loss as a result of a Closure Notice can apply to the Magistrates Court or, if appropriate, the Crown Court for compensation.

5. Going wine step too far?

In Sweden, alcohol with an alcoholic content of 3.5% or higher can only be sold by ‘Systembolaget’, which are government-funded stores.  Other unusual European laws surrounding alcohol include:

  • having to have a breathalyser on board your car in France;
  • being subject to a mandatory psychological test if you are caught riding a bicycle whilst drunk in Germany;
  • the sale of alcohol being banned on election day in Turkey; and
  • a law against drinking in public in groups of more than three or next to a church in Rome.

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