Last reviewed May 2020
Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
Legal Age in Minnesota
This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.
Getting Started on Legal Age Research
- Index: The Minnesota Statutes link directly to statutes that deal with AGE and MAJORITY (AGE). Minnesota Statutes, section 645.451 provides general definitions for the terms minor, adult, minority, majority, legal age, and full age.
- Definition: "Age of majority" is the legal age established under state law at which an individual is no longer a minor and, as an adult, has the right and responsibility to make certain legal choices. It is also the most common trigger for terminating child support payments. In most states, the age of majority is 18; however, it is commonly extended for youth still in high school.
- Publication: Youth and the Law: A Guide for Legislators, by the Minnesota Legislature's House Research Department.
Selected Age Provisions Relating to Youth
The following citations are from the Minnesota Statutes unless otherwise noted.
Adult Prosecution (Juvenile Transfer to Criminal Court)
Boating and Water Recreation
Cigarettes (Including Electronic Cigarettes)
- Persons under 21: 340A.503
- Misdemeanors: 340A.703
- Petty offenders: 260B.235
- Underage drinking and driving (Not a Drop Law): 169A.33
- Confections containing alcohol: 31.76
- History: Prior to 1973, the drinking age was the age of legal adulthood (age of majority), which was 21 (Minnesota Statutes 1971, section 645.45). In 1973, the age of majority was lowered from 21 to 18. This dropped the drinking age to 18 (Laws of Minnesota 1973, chapter 725, effective June 1, 1973). The legal drinking age was raised to 19 in 1976 (Laws of Minnesota 1976, chapter 66, effective September 1, 1976). The drinking age was raised to the current age of 21 in 1986 (Laws of Minnesota 1986, chapter 330). It included a grandfather clause: persons who were 19 years old by September 1, 1986 were treated as 21 year olds for liquor law purposes.
Candidates for public office
Emancipation of a Minor
- Background: Emancipation means that a minor has the same legal rights and obligations as an 18-year-old adult. The Minnesota Statutes do not provide either the grounds or a procedure for emancipation. Minnesota case law has established that a minor can be emancipated by a legal marriage or by parental consent. For additional information see, Youth and the Law: A Guide for Legislators, p. 54-55.
- Amusement parks, minimum age for safe amusement ride operation: 181A.04, subdivision 7 -- New as of May 2020
- Child labor: 181A.01-181A.12
- Lawn care equipment operation: 181A.16 -- New as of May 2020
- Additional information: Child Labor Laws -- Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry
Fishing and Hunting
- Consent for self when living apart from parents and managing financial affairs: 144.341
- Marriage or giving birth, consent for health service for self or child: 144.342
- Pregnancy, venereal disease, alcohol or drug abuse, abortion: 144.343
- Emergency treatment: 144.344
- Additional information: Minors' Consent for Health Care -- Minnesota House Research Department
- Age limitations: 517.02
- Governor Walz signed Laws of Minnesota, chapter 76 on May 12, 2020 eliminating any provisions for marriage by minors. The bill (HF745*/SF1393) prohibits marriage by those under 18 in all circumstances and requires Minnesotans to provide proof of age during the marriage application process. Current law allows 16- and 17-year-olds to obtain marriage licenses with permission from a parent, legal guardian, or judge. The legislation will take effect on August 1, 2020.
Motor Vehicles (Licenses, Operation, & Registration)
On-Road & Farm Vehicles
- Auto insurance for minors: 65B.136
- Drivers license: 171.04
- Provisional license: 171.055
- Instructional permit: 171.05
- Ownership, registration by person under age 18: 168.101
- Motorcycle, motor scooter, motor bike, motorized bicycle: 169.974; 169.223
- Seat belts: 169.685 (passenger restraint system for children); 169.686 (seat belt requirements)
- Restricted license for farm work: 171.041
Off-Road & Recreational
Additional information on Minnesota motor vehicle and watercraft laws
Sexual Conduct (Criminal)
Tattoos (Body Art)
- Age limitations: 609.685
- On December 20, 2019, President Donald Trump signed legislation (H.R.1865) to amend the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and raise the federal minimum age of the sale of tobacco products from 18 to 21 years. It is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product – including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes – to anyone under 21.
- On May 16, 2020, Governor Tim Walz signed into law legislation known as Tobacco 21. Laws of Minnesota 2020, chapter 88 (HF331*/SF463) raises the age for residents to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The change to state law includes electronic delivery devices and other nicotine products.
- As of May 2020, 73 Minnesota cities and counties have raised the legal age for purchasing tobacco products from 18 to 21. See the ClearWay Minnesota Tobacco 21 page for a map with detail on those communities. (For more information, see individual city and county ordinances)
- Additional information: Regulation of Electronic Cigarettes -- Minnesota House Research Department