Liquor License Violation: Penalty for Sale of Alcohol to a Minor

California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) can issue a violation to bars, restaurants, liquor stores or other licensed establishments for the sale of alcohol to a minor. This infraction is extremely serious considering the stiff penalties associated with it, including the threat of losing your liquor license. Martinez & Schill LLP can assist you in defending your business against liquor license violation and suspension or revocation hearings in San Diego and Riverside.

Penalties Associated with Selling Alcohol to Minor. Will I Lose My Liquor License?

California ABC states the penalty for sale of alcohol to a minor are as follows:

  • First Violation for Sale of Alcohol to a minor (person under 21) is 15 day suspension. If you face a first violation, you may petition to file an offer to compromise to pay a fee to the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control rather than face suspension.
  • Second Violation within 36 months is 25 day suspension
  • Third Violation within 36 months is Mandatory Revocation. Mandatory revocation also results in the loss of a business owner’s ability to sell their business to a third party with the associated liquor license and may not qualify for a new license for at least 12 months.

In addition to the above penalties, the person who provides alcohol to a minor can be at risk of imprisonment. California Business and Professions Code section 25658(a) states: every person who sells, furnishes or gives away any alcoholic beverage to any person under the age of 21 years is guilty of a misdemeanor which may be punished up to and including one year in the county jail, a fine of $1,000 or both.

Use of Decoy Program at Bars/Restaurants for Sale of Alcohol to Minor:

In order to prevent underage drinking of alcohol, California permits ABC and law enforcement to use persons under the age of twenty “minors” to buy alcohol from a licensed establishment with the sale amounting to a violation. ABC employs this method to apprehend any person that sells, provides or gives alcohol to a minor. Law enforcement must follow specific rules in the Decoy Program such as the decoy must be under age 20, must appear under the age of 21, the decoy must carry his/her own identification showing correct date of birth, and the decoy must answer truthfully all questions regarding his or her age. If law enforcement does not follow these rules then the ABC licensee may argue the violation was obtained by entrapment.

What Can I Do to Protect My Business from Sale to Minor?

It is important for every business with a liquor license to have programs in place to prevent the sale of alcohol to a minor. Whether you are a bar, lounge or nightclub you should have extensive training programs for all employees responsible for checking IDs. Additionally, if a bartender or server has any doubt as to the age of a patron, the policy should be check their ID. If you have had two violations for sale to a minor your policy should be to check all IDs all the time, no exceptions.

Defending Your Liquor License against Violation:

Martinez & Schill LLP defends those with a liquor license in Southern California, including San Diego and Riverside, facing suspension or revocation due to a violation for sale to a minor. There are multiple factors that may affect your case, such as if a violation for a sale to a minor occurred after seeing a bona fide ID or if in the rare circumstance the minor appeared to be well above the legal limit. Additionally, you may defend against a violation if the ABC did not strictly comply with the rules for decoys used to obtain a violation.

If you in need of a lawyer to defend your liquor license, call our office for a free consultation at 619-512-5995 (San Diego) or 951-200-4630 (Riverside).

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