Putting the Smack Down on Criminal Attempts by Minors to Purchase Alcohol

Putting the Smack Down on Criminal Attempts by Minors to Purchase Alcohol

Our last post about a new Tennessee law that makes carding for minors harder lead to this excellent question: "I have wondered why there are not more severe consequences for someone using a fake ID?"

In all fairness, the Tennessee ABC and many local police departments have responded to industry requests to hold servers accountable for sales to minors.  The TABC and most local police now criminally charge servers caught in under age stings.

In the past, the license holder got punished, but the state did nothing to the server.  If the license holder fired the server, the server could just walk across the street and get a job at a competitor.

The impact of criminally charging varies, depending on how severe the local court system punishes a server for sale to minor.  In Nashville, Memphis and other larger cities, courts tend to dismiss the charges after a short probation or community service.  Conviction for sale to minor disqualifies the server from holding a server permit card for eight years.

In our experience, except in a few rural counties, courts allow the server to plead guilty to a lesser offense, which does not prevent a server from working in the industry.

But we digress.

It is crime for a person under the age of 21 to try to purchase alcohol.  Tennessee Code § 57-3-412 provides that the minor's driver's license may be suspended and the minor may serve at least five days in jail.  While we are not experts in criminal law, we presume that using a fake ID is a separate crime that carries additional criminal sanctions.

Conjures up the classic Stones ode "Sympathy for the Devil"

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
Cause I'm in need of some restraint

We agree with the comment that persons under 21 are not regularly punished for trying to purchase alcohol.  We think that the lack of real consequences invites college kids and other under 21 partiers to boldly flash fake IDs and flaunt under 21 laws.

One tactic we encourage licensees to consider is to prosecute underaged patrons that attempt to purchase alcohol.  Regardless of whether the minor uses a fake ID or their real ID, it is a crime in Tennessee.

For establishments near colleges, prosecuting attempted purchasers can send a strong message on campus for underage students to avoid your restaurant or bar.  We know from experience that more often than not, students know which places sell to minors and which do not.

Although criminal prosecution is aggressive, with penalties being so tough in Tennessee, it is a tool worth considering.  For more information about carding, visit past posts.

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