In order to discourage minors in possession of alcohol and underage DUIs, many states criminalize the act of selling or supplying alcohol to a minor. By doing so, states hope to limit minors access to alcoholic beverages and encourage adults and commercial establishments to be careful about who their customers are.
Who is Prevented from Selling or Supplying?
Did You Know?
Not every jurisdiction affords an exception for parents or guardians providing their own children with alcohol at home.
Laws criminalizing the provision of alcohol to minors target a wide variety of individuals and organizations. They typically prohibit individuals from purchasing alcohol with the intent to give it to a minor, including family members. While some states provide special exceptions for parents or legal guardians if the alcohol is provided in a home environment or for religious purposes, many prohibit all individuals from giving alcohol to a minor. In some states, even if an individual does not expressly give alcohol to a minor, holding a party where liquor is readily available or allowing a minor to share in alcohol that has been purchased for a group of adults is sufficient to constitute “supplying” a minor under the statute.
These laws also apply to establishments that sell alcohol, including restaurants, bars, and liquor stores. Since these businesses sell liquor, they are typically required to obtain special licenses from the state for the retail sale of alcohol. This is often called a liquor license. Entities with liquor licenses are required to ensure that customers who purchase alcohol are over the age of 21. If they fail to do so and sell alcohol to a minor, they can face significant penalties. In many states, these penalties may be applied to the individual sales clerk who completed the transaction as well.
Fake IDs and Mistakes of Age
In many instances, minors will attempt to circumvent restrictions against drinking alcohol by presenting a fake ID to an adult or a commercial establishment. Whether this is a sufficient defense to the crime of selling or supplying to a minor depends on the laws of the state. In some states, selling alcohol to a minor is a strict liability crime. This means that it does not matter whether the individual knew the person they were selling to was under 21. In others, all that is required is that the adult who is selling or supplying the alcohol asks to see an ID. If the ID that is offered is fake, and the seller does not know, he or she usually will not be held liable in those states for selling or supplying a minor. However, this defense requires that the fake ID that was presented was reasonably realistic-looking. A seller will not be excused for selling to a minor who presents an obviously fraudulent form of identification.
In many jurisdictions, selling or supplying alcohol to a minor is a strict liability offense, meaning that a defendant may not use their genuine mistaken belief that the minor was 21 or older as a defense to the charge.
In other states, more than merely asking for ID is required in order to rely on a fake ID as a defense. Instead, the seller or supplier must take additional steps to verify the ID, such as running it through a scanner or otherwise inspecting the document. It is important to check the laws of your state to determine what standard applies.
Penalties for Selling to or Supplying a Minor
Individuals who sell or supply alcohol to a minor can face a wide range of consequences, including fines or probation. In some states, defendants may also face jail time of up to a year. Businesses that are caught selling to minors may face the prospect of having their liquor licenses revoked. Typically, an initial violation by a liquor license holder will result in a citation or warning to avoid any future incidents. If the offense occurs again, state liquor license boards may opt to revoke the license entirely. If this occurs, the business is entitled to an administrative hearing to contest or explain the nature of the citation.