Consequences of Selling Alcohol to Minors
Selling Alcohol to Minors? The bane of many a bar owner and restaurateur, obtaining a state liquor license can be one of the hardest things your business ever has to do. But even worse is losing your license for selling alcohol to a minor, after spending months and tens of thousands of dollars to obtain one.
Do I Automatically Lose My Liquor License for Selling Alcohol to a Minor?
No, things are not quite that cut and dry. There are various factors that go into deciding exactly who is punished, and to what degree, if a minor is served alcohol. First of all, although all states do have a 21-year-old minimum for buying and drinking alcohol, it is not a federal law. This means that each state is free to create its own laws, punishments, and agencies. California, for instance, has the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), which is responsible for drafting and enforcing the provisions of the liquor license.
Each state’s agency will have specific enforcement provisions about the punishments for violating a liquor license. In general, the agency is free to revoke a license for ANY offense, even a first one, but in practice, they will usually give first-time offenders a fine, warning, and/or a suspension of the license (usually a week or so). However, if the offense is particularly blatant, the license may be revoked. Also, if you are cited for selling to a minor again within a year of your first citation, many boards automatically revoke your license (some states allow 3 times in one year).
Upon receiving a citation, you can request an administrative hearing to present your side of the story and any mitigating factors you might have or can agree to the punishment and submit.
If your license is revoked, you generally must wait at least six months before applying for another, a process which will be made even more difficult and costly due to the revocation of your record.
If You Sell Alcohol to a Minor, What Is the Fine?
Aside from violating your license, selling to a minor is also a crime. If you are caught selling alcohol to a minor, then there are two sets of penalties given: one to your clerk (who actually made the sale), and one to you, the license holder (the underage minor can also be charged, of course).
- Licensee – Generally, selling to a minor is considered a class-2 misdemeanor in most states, which means it only carries a 30-day maximum sentence and a small fine (incarceration is unlikely). However, if the minor is under 18 years of age, then it usually increased to a class-1 misdemeanor, which is a full year in jail and a $1,000 fine. In addition, civil penalties will be awarded against the licensee for the vicarious liability of the clerk, starting from $500 and doubling for each offense (if the clerk has not attended any state-mandated training courses, these fines may double). Also, if the licensee himself sells alcohol to a minor, many states will automatically revoke the license.
- Clerk – The clerk who actually sells the alcohol is liable for all the same penalties as the licensee (that is, he can be arrested for a class 1 or class 2 misdemeanor, depending on the age of the minor). The state also imposes other punitive sanctions, like suspending the clerk’s driver’s license for 30 days to a year.
Bear in mind that the range amounts for each fine may be different in each state or jurisdiction. Generally speaking, most jurisdictions will follow similar fine amounts for selling alcohol to a minor.
What If the Minor Used a Fake ID?
In most states, a licensee is only held liable for selling to a minor without asking for any ID. If ID is asked for, and a fake ID indicating the minor is actually 21 is shown, then in almost all cases, no charges will be filed from either the police or from the alcohol control board. The one caveat is that the ID must appear to be reasonably realistic: if it says the minor is 100 years old or is of a different sex or completely different appearance, then you will likely be held liable. But with the prevalence of extremely accurate looking forgeries on the black market, rarely will a bar or liquor store be held liable for accepting a fake ID. The same applies to actual IDs that don’t belong to the minor (i.e. if he uses his older brother’s real driver’s license).
The vast majority of police stings are designed to catch vendors who sell to minors without carding or card them (and get real IDs that say they are minors) and then sell them anyway. So it is very important that your clerks actually do check the ages of any IDs presented. A scanning device to confirm the IDs authenticity (available for little cost), will also go a long way in protecting you from liability, even though many forgeries are now so advanced as to pass this test too.
Do I Need an Attorney?
If you have been cited for selling to a minor, or have even lost your liquor license, you should consult an experienced business attorney immediately. A good lawyer can help speed up the process of getting a new license or help you during an administrative hearing with an alcohol board. If you’ve been arrested, then you should get a criminal attorney as soon as possible to protect your rights.
Raising the minimum wage will have severe consequences, especially for those working in the restaurant industry.
A higher minimum wage will result in a challenge for restaurants, which depend heavily on hourly workers. The increased cost of labor will likely cause higher costs to customers. Restaurants could also cut hours or the number of employees they have while relying more on computers to service customers, or ownership will be forced to take on shifts themselves to defray costs or significantly raise the price of their product. Some restaurants may even be forced to close.
In Los Angeles, instead of increasing menu prices some restaurants are eliminating tipping and instituting a “service charge.” A service charge is restaurant property, whereas tips are the property of the server. Currently, servers average 20% tip. After paying out support staff they usually take home about 14% of the total sales for the night. This would prevent businesses from passing the cost onto the customer. If businesses keep raising prices, the consumer loses and eventually may stop consuming. With nowhere for business owners to hide from the minimum wage increase (say, in other neighboring municipalities) except out of state, Los Angeles could be in the same boat, for better or worse, as every other city in the state.
It is important to contact your attorney to make sure you understand and are in compliance with the new minimum wage laws that have been enacted in the city of Los Angeles.
What Is a Business License?
A business license or permit is generally recommended, and sometimes required, for individuals or businesses to operate in California. Business licenses exist at the local, state, and federal level. Licenses and permits cover almost every type of business activity, such as building construction, restaurants and nightclubs, retail sales and the ability to work as a licensed professional.
What Determines the Licenses I Need?
The type of licenses or permits you will need depends on several factors, including:
•Your profession or occupation
•Whether you are an employer or an independent contractor
•Your industry and business activities
•Your place(s) of business
Professional Licenses in California
Depending on your profession, you may need to obtain a license to practice in California, even if you have been previously licensed in a different state. The licensing requirements vary by profession, and many are issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs. A few of the professions for which a license is required are:
•Aestheticians and Cosmetologists
•Real Estate Brokers and Agents
Do I Need Any Local Permits?
Local permits are dependent on city and county requirements and ordinances. Local licenses and permits are common for items such as:
•Construction or renovation
•Local business licenses
License and permit requirements vary, so to be sure, you should check with your local authorities.
How Can I Find Out If I Need a Professional License?
You should always check with your local authorities in the city or county where you plan to work or operate a business.
Should I Consult a Business Attorney in California?
Applying for business licenses and permits may not require the help of an attorney. However, if you are setting up a new business, an experienced business attorney can help provide guidance on permits, as well as other business organization issues. If you have been charged with criminal or civil penalties for a failure to have a proper permit, an attorney can help defend you.
What Is a Dram Shop Law?
A dram shop law is a type of statute which holds any business establishment strictly liable for selling alcoholic beverages to a person who is obviously intoxicated. The purpose of dram shop laws or acts is to increase the responsibility of those who make profits by tendering alcoholic beverages to guests. The word “dram” refers to a British unit of measurement for serving alcohol.
Dram shop laws usually deal with prohibiting alcohol sales to intoxicated persons, but sometimes they may also cover the sale of alcohol to minors, as well as issues with licenses and identification. Most states have some form of these types of laws, but they vary widely between jurisdictions.
What Is California’s Dram Shop Law?
Dram Shop laws in California are extremely limited. Recent California legislation has removed the strict liability for businesses who serve alcohol to patrons. It should be noted that this limitation only applies in civil court. Criminal law penalties may still apply to businesses who serve alcohol to obviously intoxicated persons. It should also be noted that the limitation on civil penalties protects licensed alcohol vendors but provides no protection to hosts of parties or other social events where alcohol is served.
Despite California’s limitation on holding liquor stores or bars responsible for selling alcohol to persons who are obviously intoxicated, California establishments still may be held liable for serving alcohol to a minor who subsequently injures another person as a result of being intoxicated.
Why Is There No Civil Dram Shop Liability in California?
The rationale behind the California legislature’s decision to limit civil liability for serving alcohol to an intoxicated individual is that it is often difficult to determine who is at fault if an intoxicated person gets into an accident after consuming alcohol. Strict liability implies that the business establishment must have caused the accident by serving the person alcohol.
Nevertheless, California case law has held that the consumption of alcohol, and not the serving of alcohol, is the proximate cause in the case of an accident. Thus, the sale of alcohol by bars and liquor stores in California is not considered to be the cause of an automobile accident.
Do I Need a California Lawyer for a Dram Shop Claim?
Whether you are a business owner or a party or event host, it is important to retain a lawyer if you have been charged with negligently providing alcohol in civil or criminal court. This is especially true if the incident involves the sale of alcohol to a minor.
Dram shop violations, like many other areas of law, can be complicated. Hiring an experienced lawyer can help ensure that you meet all the various court requirements and deadlines for your claim. A qualified lawyer will help you understand the legal basis for any claim against you and can also help you resolve the matter as quickly as possible.