Written by attorney Scott Alan Michels

Iowa Minor In Possession of Alcohol

Minors in possession A/K/A P.A.U.L.A. (Possession of Alcohol Under Legal Age)

Iowa Code section 123.47 prohibits minors from purchasing or attempting to purchase, or possessing or having control of alcoholic beverages. The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the under age person had either actual possession or constructive possession of alcohol.

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To prove possession the State must show:

  1. Person exercised dominion or control over alcohol 2. Person had knowledge of presence of alcohol 3. Person knew the material was alcohol


There are however, exceptions to the rule. It is NOT illegal for a minor to possess and consume alcohol when it is dispensed to the individual:

  1. Within a private home and with the knowledge, presence and consent of the parents or guardian; or 2. As administered to the person by either a physician or dentist for medicinal purpose; or 3. The individual is handling the beverage during the regular course of the person's employment by a liquor control licensee or wine or beer permittee.


First Offense: Simple Misdemeanor. Mandatory minimum fine of $200.

Second Offense: Simple Misdemeanor. Mandatory minimum fine of $500. Person must also choose to either complete a substance abuse evaluation OR have their driver's license suspended for one year.

Third or Subsequent Offense: Simple Misdemeanor. Mandatory minimum fine of $500 and one year drivers license suspension.

Expuning a Prior Conviction

As of July 1, 2010, a person with a conviction of a minor in possession (PAULA) may petition the court to have the conviction expunged from their record if two years have passed from the date of conviction and the person has not had any other criminal convictions other than traffic violations under Iowa Code chapter 321. If eligible, the Court must expunge the conviction.

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