Bringing out-of-state alcohol into Iowa could make you a criminal

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It may seem hard to believe, but if you are an Iowa resident who hops across state lines to visit a Minnesota brewery and returns with a growler, you are technically a criminal under Iowa law. Perhaps most bizarre of all, the law does not apply to distilled spirits (just beer and wine). A recent editorial by The Des Moines Register explains:

"In Iowa, you could be a bootlegger and not even know it.vIf you bring back a couple of bottles of zinfandel from a California winery, or even from an Omaha supermarket, you may be committing a serious misdemeanor.

If you vacation in Wisconsin and return with a case of New Glarus Brewing’s Spotted Cow ale — popular but sold only in that state — you could end up, theoretically, in the hoosegow.vBut if you import four liters of tequila from your trip to Mexico? No problem.  

Such is the bizarre state of Iowa’s alcohol laws. Last week, the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division sent out an education bulletin clarifying that “only alcoholic liquor can be personally imported” — up to one liter from another state or four liters from another country.   

But beer and wine, even if it’s consumed only in your home? No, according to the division’s interpretation.

Beer and wine are not expressly mentioned in the law on importation and do not fit the definition of liquor, said Stephanie Strauss with the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division. She said the division sent out the bulletin because it has received questions about the law, including from returning members of the military.

A serious misdemeanor is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of between $315 and $1,875."

Read the rest of the editorial here.