Summary of Alcohol-Related State Laws and Regulations

The following information, last updated on August 6, 2014, is provided by the USC Department of Public Safety.

The university’s policy with respect to alcohol follows the state and municipal laws of California and the City of Los Angeles. The possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages on campus, in university recognized living units or sponsored by a university-recognized group (regardless of location) is governed by the laws of the state and the municipal governments where the possession and consumption occurs. In most instances, this will be the State of California and the City of Los Angeles. These laws apply regardless of the state or country from which a person has come or in which the person maintains official residence.

These laws and regulations are found in the California State Constitution, the California State Business and Professional Code, the California State Penal Code, the California State Vehicle Code, and the Los Angeles Municipal Code. It is the responsibility of the server or consumer of alcoholic beverages to be aware of, and abide by, all state and local ordinances and university regulations. These statutes and regulations are summarized and highlighted here for general use, and may not cover all situations.

In addition, the university expects that every individual and any recognized student organization will follow the regulations regarding the use of alcoholic beverages (including wine and beer) as set by the University of Southern California. As it is impossible to anticipate every situation that could involve alcohol, this list should not be considered to be all-inclusive. For clarification of this alcohol policy and what activities are included, contact the Office of Student Activities or the Office of Residential Life.

State and Municipal Laws and Ordinances

The following provisions of the state and municipal law serve as the foundation for USC’s policy on alcohol.
(Note: This list is not a complete summary of relevant laws and ordinances.)

  • The purchase, possession, or consumption of alcoholic beverages (including beer and wine) by any person under the age of 21 is prohibited.
  • The selling, either directly or indirectly, of alcoholic beverages (including beer and wine) except under the authority of a California Alcoholic Beverage Control Board license is prohibited. This includes selling glasses, mixes, ice, tickets for admission, etc.
  • The serving of alcohol to someone to the point of intoxication is prohibited.
  • The manufacture, use or provision of a false state identification card, driver’s license, or certification of birth or baptism is prohibited.
  • The act(s) of being drunk and disorderly in public view, including on public sidewalks and walkways, is prohibited.
  • The consumption of alcoholic beverages in a public place (unless licensed for consumption of alcohol on the premises) is prohibited. This includes a prohibition of alcoholic beverages in public areas of academic facilities, recreation fields, university housing corridors and lounges.
  • The act of driving a motor vehicle or a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol is prohibited.
  • The possession of an alcoholic beverage in an open container in a motor vehicle or on a bicycle is prohibited regardless of who is driving or whether one is intoxicated.

State and Federal Criminal Sanctions

The following is a brief summary of the state and federal criminal sanctions that may be imposed upon someone who violates the alcohol policy at USC or elsewhere in the state of California.

  • A violation of California law for the unlawful sale of alcohol may include imprisonment in the county jail for six months, plus fines and penalties.
  • A violation of California law for the use of alcohol by obviously intoxicated individuals will vary with the particular circumstances but may include imprisonment in the county jail and substantial fines and penalties. Additionally, minors who are arrested for violations concerning the use of alcohol run the risk of having their driving privileges suspended or revoked until they are 18.
  • A violation of the law involving an individual being under the influence of a combination of alcohol and other drugs (itself potentially deadly), may result in an increase in criminal sanctions and penalties. In addition to the sanctions imposed by the university, individuals who have violated State and Federal law regarding possession, use, and/or distribution of alcohol and other drugs may be referred by the university to the appropriate authorities for arrest and prosecution.