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ABC VIOLATION ROUND-UP: Purchase by Minor Decoy

The California ABC actively enforces the alcoholic beverage laws of the state. We’ll be posting a series of “ABC Violation Round-Up” items discussing some of the violations we have seen in recent enforcement actions.

This week…. sale to a minor decoy.

The Violation: You cannot sell or serve alcohol to anyone under 21 years of age in California. The ABC is constantly visiting retailers to make sure this law is enforced. Violations of the law can occur two ways; via a law enforcement decoy sting or via sale to a “true” minor. This post covers law enforcement decoy stings, which are run by the ABC or by a local law enforcement agency. In a decoy sting, a minor (19 years of age or younger) will visit your premise under law enforcement supervision and attempt to purchase alcohol. We will cover sales to a “true” minor in a later post.

How to Avoid It: Identification must be requested if there is any question regarding the age of a person requesting access to alcohol. Licensees and their staff must be trained in proper review of identification. Any identification presented must be bona fide, and must match the person presenting it. Minor decoys are required to answer questions about their age truthfully, so if you ask a decoy “Are you 21 or over?” they are obliged to say no. Decoys are also required to be 19 years of age or younger, and are required to present their true identification or none at all. It is common for a decoy to confidently present their true ID and trip-up a server who is not careful. Servers must be trained to check the red “Age 21 in 20__” indicator on every ID presented to them. Recently, ABC stings at on-sale premises have involved two decoys working in tandem.

Statute: California Business and Professions Code § 25658, ABC Rule 141

Standard Penalty: 15 day suspension for 1st offense, 25 day suspension for 2nd offense within 36 months, license revocation for 3rd offense within 36 months. Fines can typically be paid for the first two “strikes” in lieu of serving a suspension. The fine for the first strike is capped at $3,000, and raised to $20,000 for the second strike.

Imbiblog is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.

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