Thursday, July 9, 2009

Do we need another law on alcohol sales to minors?

In response to an LA Times article from 7/8 titled "Alcohol sales to minors a problem with self-service checkout" Ralph Saltsman of Legal Help Live had this to say:

As to AB 1060 which would disallow self-checking of alcoholic beverages at retail stores, according to Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control statistics, programs implemented in the mid-1990’s have diminished sales of alcohol to minors significantly. That may be why the ABC does not support the pending legislation. Existing law strictly prohibits sales to minors. The seller is faced with misdemeanor prosecution. The licensee is faced with a substantial fine and if the offense is repeated twice within 36 months of the date of the first violation, the license will be revoked. Revocation means forever.

Since the ABC began its program of funding local police departments to set up decoy programs throughout the state in 1995, sales to minors have dropped. Can a kid outwit a self-checkout system? Of course. Can that kid also outwit a trained clerk who is armed with electronic scanning devices? The answer is still yes.

As the law firm which represents ABC retail licenses statewide and which litigates disciplinary proceedings brought by the ABC against licensees, I believe we have some insight which may contribute to the analysis of the controversy between self-checking and clerical checking. Our observation is that there are no systems which cannot be circumvented, but the legislature’s, the state agency’s and retailers’ mutual obligation is to minimize sales to minors without destroying a significant part of the state’s economy at the same time. Statutes on the books now and the diligent oversight by the ABC with local police together with in-store systems and training seem to be addressing the age-old problem of the under-aged obtaining alcohol. Why interfere with a system that seems to now be making things better?