AGE OF MAJORITY; JUVENILES; LEGISLATION; LIQUOR; PARENTS;
October 22, 2003
STATE LAW CONCERNING LIQUOR AND MINORS
By: Daniel Duffy, Principal Analyst
You asked for a summary of state law and recent proposals concerning liquor and minors. You were particularly interested in measures concerning parental supervision.
For purposes of state liquor law, a “minor” is someone who is less than 21 years old. The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) administers the Liquor Control Act. It regulates the sale of liquor to prevent sales to minors and other “unsuitable” people.
The law establishes a panoply of punishments for minors who possess, purchase, or even attempt to purchase liquor. A minor can be fined from $ 200 to $ 500 for (1) possessing liquor in a public place, (2) buying liquor, (3) attempting to buy liquor, or (4) making a false statement to buy liquor. A minor who misrepresents his age or uses another’s driver’s license to obtain liquor can be fined from $ 200 to $ 500, imprisoned for up to 30 days, or both. Further, the motor vehicles commissioner must suspend for up to 150 days the driver’s license of a minor convicted of violating these laws. Finally, the motor vehicles commissioner must suspend, for two months, the license of a minor who possesses a false or altered license.
The law prohibits inducing a minor to obtain liquor. A violator is subject to a fine of up to $ 1,000, one year in prison, or both.
The law prohibits selling liquor to minors. It establishes penalties for sellers who do so, but also creates incentives to encourage sellers to check age identification. A liquor permittee or employee who sells to a minor is subject to a fine of up to $ 1,000, one year in prison, or both. There are certain specific exceptions. If a seller has a customer complete an age statement form and the permittee is subsequently charged with serving a minor, and the seller introduces the statement in the proceedings and shows that the evidence presented to prove age was such as would convince a reasonable man, then no penalty may be imposed. The law establishes a similar protection for a liquor seller who has properly relied on a transaction scanner to verify a customer’s age.
Minors must be at least 15 years old to work in a grocery store that sells beer and at least 18 years old to work in any other liquor establishment. Further, minors may not work in a tavern. Liquor permittees are prohibited from allowing a minor to loiter on the premises unless the minor is an employee or in the company of his parent or guardian.
The law prohibits DCP from issuing a liquor permit to a minor. Although they may not hold a permit, there are permit provisions relating to minors. Institutions of higher learning can obtain a permit to sell beer and wine in buildings they control. Further, the University of Connecticut can obtain a permit to sell liquor. Liquor sellers can get permission to hold an “all-ages” event, also known as a juice bar, if certain conditions are met.
DCP has the authority to refuse to issue a permit if it believes that the proposed premises is too close to a public or parochial school.
One provision of the Liquor Control Act is intended to reduce youthful drinking at parties by requiring beer kegs to be registered when sold.
Legislation considered, but not adopted, in 2003 would have prohibited minors from possessing liquor anywhere. They are currently prohibited from possessing liquor in public. As under current law, the prohibition would not apply to minors in the company of their parents, spouse, or guardian over 21 years old, or to minors who are working for liquor permit holders.
MINORS (CGS § 30-112)
Under the Liquor Control Act, a “minor” is anyone less than 21 years old.
DRIVER’S LICENSE AS IDENTIFICATION, MISREPRESENTING AGE PROHIBITED (CGS § 30-88A)
The law authorizes anyone who is 21 years old who has a driver’s license with a full-face photograph to use it to prove age when buying liquor. A liquor seller is authorized to accept it as legal proof of age. Anyone who misrepresents age, or uses another’s license to obtain liquor is subject to a fine of $ 200 to $ 500, 30 days in prison, or both.
FINE FOR A MINOR WHO BUYS OR ATTEMPTS TO BUY LIQUOR (CGS § 30-89(A))
A minor who buys or attempts to buy liquor, or who makes a false statement to obtain liquor, is subject to a fine of $ 200 to $ 500.
LIQUOR POSSESSION BY A MINOR PROHIBITED (CGS § 30-89(B))
A minor who possesses liquor on any street or in any other public place, or a place open to the public including a club open to the public, is subject to a fine of $ 200 to $ 500.
The law exempts a minor who (1) is an employee of a premises with a liquor permit acting in the course of his employment; (2) possesses liquor on the orders of his doctor; or (3) possesses liquor while in the company of his parent, guardian, or spouse who is at least 21 years old.
ADDITIONAL PENALTY FOR LIQUOR PURCHASING OR POSSESSION BY A MINOR (CGS § 14-111E)
The law requires the motor vehicles commissioner to suspend, for up to 150 days, the driver’s license, motorcycle license, or nonresident operating privilege of anyone under 21 years old who has been convicted of violating the laws prohibiting minors from (1) misusing their license to obtain liquor (CGS § 30-88a) or (2) purchasing or possessing liquor (CGS § 30-89). The law also makes someone under 21 years old who has been convicted of these crimes and who does not have a license ineligible to receive one for 150 days after meeting licensing requirements.
An enclosed report compares this law to similar laws in Massachusetts and New York and discusses some implementation problems with the Connecticut law (99-R-1038).
PENALTY FOR POSSESSION OF COUNTERFEIT OR ALTERED LICENSE (CGS § 14-111F)
The law requires the motor vehicles commissioner to suspend, for two months, the driver’s license of anyone who possesses a counterfeit or altered license containing the person’s photograph.
INDUCING LIQUOR PROCUREMENT BY MINORS PROHIBITED (CGS § 30-87)
The law prohibits inducing a minor to procure liquor from anyone with a liquor permit. The law subjects a violator to the general criminal penalty for violating the Liquor Control Act. This is a fine of up to $ 1,000, one year in prison, or both (CGS § 30-113). The law exempts procurement by a minor who is over 18 years old and an employee of a premises with a liquor permit acting in the course of his employment.
It also exempts inducement in the course of an official investigation or enforcement activity carried out by a law enforcement agency. The law states that it may not be construed to prevent any action from being taken under the laws authorizing DCP to enforce the Liquor Control Act by revoking or suspending liquor permits for cause (CGS § 30-55) or prohibiting sales to minors (CGS § 30-86) when the minor is participating in an official investigation or enforcement activity.
SALES TO MINORS PROHIBITED (CGS § 30-86)
The law subjects a permittee or his agent who sells or gives liquor to a minor to the general criminal penalty for violating the Liquor Control Act. This is a fine of up to $ 1,000, one year in prison, or both (CGS § 30-113). Further, the law subjects anyone who sells, ships, delivers, or gives liquor to a minor, except under a doctor’s orders, by any means, including the Internet, to a fine of up to $ 1,500, 18 months in prison, or both.
The law exempts: (1) selling, shipping, or delivering to a minor who is over 18 years old and an employee of a premises with a liquor permit acting in the course of his employment; (2) selling, shipping, or delivering to a minor in good faith who (a) had deceitfully obtained a Department of Motor Vehicles Connecticut identity card, (b) used another’s identity card, or (c) altered or tampered with an identity card; and (3) shipping or
delivering to a minor by a parent, guardian, or spouse of the minor if (a) the parent, guardian, or spouse is at least 21 years old and (b) the minor has the liquor only while in the company of the parent, guardian, or spouse.
STATEMENT TO PROVE AGE (CGS § 30-86A)
The law requires liquor sellers to require anyone whose age is in question to complete an age statement form and prescribes the form. In completing the form, the customer states that he is over 21 years old, knows that the law prohibits liquor sales to someone younger, and knows that the penalty for willfully misrepresenting one’s age is a fine of up to $ 150 for a first offense and up to $ 250 for subsequent offenses.
The statement must be kept on file in the permit premises. In cases in which (1) the age statement form has been obtained, (2) the permittee is subsequently charged with serving a minor, and (3) the permittee introduces the statement in the proceedings and shows that the evidence presented to prove age was such as would convince a reasonable man, then no penalty may be imposed.
TRANSACTION SCANNER (CGS § 30-86)
The law explicitly allows a liquor seller to use a transaction scanner to verify a customer's age and provides an affirmative defense if he sells liquor while relying on the scan's validity. A “transaction scanner” is a device used at the point of sale that can read information encoded on a driver’s license’s or identity card’s magnetic strip or bar code.
A seller may not be found guilty of selling to a minor if he proves that (1) the minor presented a driver's license or DMV identity card in attempting to buy liquor, (2) the card’s scan indicated it was valid, and (3) the liquor was sold in reasonable reliance on the identification and validity of the scan. In determining whether a permittee has proven an affirmative defense, the law requires a court to consider that the use of a scan does not excuse a permittee or seller from exercising reasonable diligence to determine (1) if the customer is age 21 or older and (2) whether the description and picture on the license or card are those of the cardholder.
The law prohibits selling liquor if the information on the driver's license or identity card is false or does not match scan results. The law does not prevent a seller, as a condition of a sale, from scanning other documents that have a magnetic strip or bar code. But scanning these documents does not constitute an affirmative defense.
The law forbids permittees and their employees from using a transaction scanner for any purpose other than verifying a customer's age and identity. It prohibits them from recording information from a driver's license or identity card other than (1) the cardholder’s name and date of birth and (2) the license’s or card’s expiration date and identification number. The law prohibits permittees from selling or distributing information derived from a transaction scan to any third party for such purposes as marketing, advertising, or promotional, but allows court-ordered information releases. Violators can be subject to a fine of up to $ 1,000.
AGE OF EMPLOYMENT IN A LIQUOR-SELLING ESTABLISHMENT (CGS § 30-90A)
The law allows anyone over age 18 to work in liquor-selling establishments. Further, someone 15 years old may work in a grocery store with a beer permit. The law deems a minor performing paid or volunteer services of an emergency nature to be an employee subject to this provision.
MINOR’S EMPLOYMENT IN A TAVERN AND HANDLING LIQUOR PROHIBITED (CGS § 30-81)
The law prohibits minors from being employed in a tavern. Under the Liquor Control Act, a “tavern” is a place where beer and wine may be sold for on-premises consumption with or without the sale of food.
Except as allowed by CGS § 30-90a, the law prohibits minors from handling any liquor on, delivering liquor to, or conveying liquor from any permit premises.
ALLOWING A MINOR TO LOITER IN A LIQUOR-SELLING ESTABLISHMENT PROHIBITED (CGS § 30-90)
The law prohibits a permittee and his employees from allowing a minor to (1) loiter in a permit premises where liquor is kept for sale or (2) be in a room where liquor is served at a bar, unless the minor is an employee or in the company of his parent or guardian. A violator is subject to the general criminal penalty for violating the Liquor Control Act. This is a fine of up to $ 1,000, one year in prison, or both (CGS § 30-113).
MINORS PROHIBITED FROM OBTAINING LIQUOR PERMITS (CGS § 30-45)
The law prohibits DCP from issuing a liquor permit to a minor.
UNIVERSITY PERMIT (CGS § 30-20A)
State law allows liquor to be sold in buildings under the control of an institution of higher learning, but only if the institutions obtain a special liquor permit. The permits allow beer sales or beer and wine sales. Further, the law allows the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees to obtain a permit allowing the sale of all types of liquor—alcohol, beer, wine, and spirits.
JUICE BARS (CGS § 30-22C)
Liquor-selling establishments sometimes hold events intended for an audience of all ages. There is both state statute and regulation concerning the “juice bars” operated by liquor-selling establishments. The regulation and statute, which was adopted later, establish somewhat different requirements. The regulation allows an establishment to operate as a juice bar only if it (1) does not sell liquor on that day and (2) has notified the local police of the event hours (Conn. Agencies Reg. § 30-6-A 24b). The statute allows a café to operate a juice bar if (1) the juice bar is in a separate room in which liquor is neither dispensed nor present and (2) the establishment has notified the local police of the event. The Department of Consumer Protection has adopted a practice that allows juice bars to operate if the statutory requirements are met and, if not, to operate only if liquor is not sold when the juice bar is operating.
LIQUOR PERMITS NEAR SCHOOLS (CGS § 30-46)
The law gives DCP the discretion to refuse to issue, revoke, suspend, or refuse to renew a permit to applicants and permittees whose premises are in certain locations. Among them, it can take these actions concerning premises it has reasonable cause to believe will have a detrimental effect on a public or parochial school.
BEER KEG REGISTRATION REQUIRED (CGS § 30-114)
The General Assembly adopted legislation designed to reduce the number of “keggers,” or parties at which beer is served to minors. The law requires package and grocery stores selling keg beer to (1) place an identification tag on the keg; (2) require purchasers to sign a receipt; and (3) inform them that the deposit, if any, must be forfeited if the keg is returned without an intact and readable tag. The seller may inform buyers of this fact either verbally or by posting a conspicuous sign at the point of sale. For this purpose, the law defines “keg” as a brewery-sealed container of at least six gallons.
The tag must be a numbered label furnished by DCP that clearly identifies the seller. It must be made and attached in a way that the beer manufacturer can easily remove it for keg cleaning and reuse. DCP may charge a reasonable fee, up to the actual cost, for supplying the tags and customer receipts.
The customer signature receipt must be a form provided by DCP stating the purchaser’s name, address, driver’s license number, or other identification prescribed by regulation. The seller must keep a copy of all receipts on the premises and available for inspection and copying by department and criminal justice agencies for six months.
The act prohibits keg sellers from returning a keg deposit if the keg (1) does not have the required identification tag or (2) has one that is defaced and unreadable.
A retailer who violates the law is subject to permit suspension or revocation. A purchaser who knowingly provides false information on the customer receipt commits a class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to three months in prison, a fine of up to $ 500, or both. Anyone who possesses an untagged keg, knowing it to be untagged, commits a class C misdemeanor. The penalty does not apply to a beer manufacturer, wholesaler, or retailer or someone who finds a discarded keg containing beer on his property.
DRAM SHOP ACT (CGS § 30-102, PA 03-91)
The Dram Shop Act makes someone who sells liquor to an intoxicated person liable if the intoxicated person injures a person or property because of the intoxication. Under the act, the maximum amount an injured person can recover is $ 250,000 for injuries to a single person and $ 250,000 in aggregate for injuries to more than one person.
The 2003 act eliminates an injured person's right to sue a seller for negligence in selling alcohol to someone at least age 21.
Several pieces of legislation considered, but not adopted, in 2003 would have prohibited minors from possessing liquor anywhere (HB 5030, HB 6693, and LCO 6153, offered as House Amendment D to HB 5810). HB 5030 died in the Judiciary Committee, HB 6693 died in the Transportation Committee, and House D to HB 5810 was defeated.
In addition to expanding the prohibition, HB 6693 would have authorized courts to order minors to perform up to 180 hours of community service and to undergo mental health or substance abuse counseling.
None of the measures would have affected an individual who is accompanied by his parent who is over 21 years old.