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 true minor.
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. We covered decoy stings in an earlier 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. It is common for ABC investigators to stake-out parking lots at off-sale retailers and follow-up with any young-looking people exiting the retailer with alcohol in tow. It is also common for the ABC to visit on-sale retailers or winery tasting rooms and check the identification of young-looking people with alcohol. In college areas, it is not uncommon for investigators to enter a licensed business and request identification from every patron.
Did the Minor Present Bona Fide ID? Reliance on bona fide proof of majority is a defense under Business and Professions Code Section 25660, but it is very difficult to prove in the case of a true minor because the licensee must prove that reliance on the identification was reasonable, and it is difficult to prove reliance on the identification if you don’t have a copy of it. If this is a possible defense for your business, be sure you record every known detail regarding the presented identification.
Will the Minor be Present at the Hearing? The minor must show up at the hearing on the accusation against your license for the accusation to move forward.
Statute: California Business and Professions Code § 25658
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.
Alcohol.law Digest is published for general informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice.
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