Topic:
STATISTICAL INFORMATION; MOTOR VEHICLES; LIQUOR; JUVENILES; DRIVER LICENSES; CRIME; AGE OF MAJORITY;
Location:
AGE OF MAJORITY; LIQUOR;

OLR Research Report


September 10, 2008

 

2008-R-0492

PREVENTING MINORS FROM PURCHASING OR POSSESSING ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

By: Daniel Duffy, Principal Analyst

You asked for (1) a summary of state law prohibiting or preventing minors from purchasing or possessing alcoholic beverages and (2) statistics on enforcing those laws.

SUMMARY

The Liquor Control Act defines “minor” as someone under age 21. The law prohibits minors from purchasing or possessing liquor and prohibits sellers from selling to minors. These bans were a part of the Liquor Control Act when it was enacted in 1933.

In FY 2006 (July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006) 166 minors were charged with the illegal purchase of alcohol. The number dropped to 110 in FY 2007 and to 65 in FY 2008. Minors were more typically charged with illegal possession of liquor. The number charged increased from 1,393 in FY 2006 to 2,208 in FY 2007. In FY 2008 the number of violations dropped to 1,509.

The law also prohibits minors from misrepresenting their ages to buy liquor. Further, it specifically prohibits misusing a driver's license to do so and making a false statement on a liquor seller's age statement form. Minors were charged with misusing a license 114 times in the three-year period and for making a false statement to purchase 39 times.

The law further requires the commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend the license or nonresident operating privilege of a minor convicted of these crimes. The number of suspensions for alcohol possession was 278 in calendar year 2006. The 1,615 suspensions in 2007 was nearly six times greater. The number dropped to 1,226 in 2008. The increase from 2006 likely reflects the 2006 act that banned minors from alcohol possession on private property and made a first offense an infraction.

The law prohibits minors from possessing liquor in a motor vehicle. The penalty is a license suspension. DMV suspended the licenses of 100 minors in the three year-period for this offense.

There are several other laws intended to punish minors for alcohol possession or consumption. No one had a license suspended for possessing a counterfeit or altered driver's license. The lower BAC limit for minors (.02%) was enforced only 10 times, possibly because there are few, if any, visible indications of consumption at that level. Twelve individuals have been charged with possessing a beer keg without its required tag. The law requires beer keg sellers to tag a beer keg to show who has purchased it and to indicate that the purchaser's age was checked.

MINORS

Under the Liquor Control Act, a “minor” is someone younger than 21 (CGS 30-1(12)). The act was passed in 1933 in anticipation of the repeal of prohibition (1933, PA 140). It prohibited selling or in any way delivering alcoholic beverages to minors, intoxicated persons, and habitual drunkards. These bans have remained unchanged.

But in 1971, the legislature lowered the age of majority for all rights and privileges, including the rights to vote and enter contracts, from 21 to 18 (1972, PA 127). In doing so, it lowered the drinking age to 18 ( 57). The drinking age remained at 18 until 1982, when the legislature raised it to age 19 (PA 82-68). It raised the drinking age again the following year to age 21 (PA 83-508).

BAN ON PURCHASING AND POSSESSING

The law prohibits minors from purchasing, attempting to purchase, or making a false statement to purchase alcoholic beverages (CGS 30-89 (a)). Like the ban on selling to minors, the ban was adopted as part of the original Liquor Control Act in 1933. A minor who violates the ban is subject to a criminal penalty of a fine that must be at least $200 and may be as much as $500 (CGS 30-89). A minor is also subject to the mandatory driver's license suspension described below.

The law also prohibits minors from possessing liquor (1) on a public street or highway or (2) in any other public or private place. A violator commits an infraction for a first offense. Infractions are punishable by fines, usually set by Superior Court judges, of between $35 and $90, plus a $20 or $35 surcharge and an additional fee based on the amount of the infraction. An infraction is not a crime and violators do not have criminal records and may pay the fine by mail without making a court appearance. For a second or subsequent offense, violators are subject to a criminal penalty of at least $200 up to a maximum of $500. A minor who has been convicted (i.e., has been punished for a second or subsequent offense) is subject to the mandatory driver's license suspension described below. 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.

The law took its present form in 2006. PA 06-112 revised it by making it illegal for a minor to possess alcohol anywhere, rather than only in public places. Under prior law, the penalty for illegal possession was a fine of $200 to $500. The act made this the penalty for a second and subsequent offenses and made a first offense an infraction.

Criminal Charges and Dispositions for Purchasing and Possessing

Table 1 displays Judicial Department data on the number of violations of CGS 30-89 and the disposition of charges for fiscal years 200, 2007, and 2008. It shows that the number of minors charged with purchasing dropped in both 2007 and 2008. The number charged with illegal possession was the highest in 2007.

Table 1: Criminal Charges and Dispositions

Year

Number of Violations

Guilty*

Infractions

FTA/Bond

Forfeitures**

Nolle

Not Guilty

Illegal Purchase (CGS 30-89(a))

2006

166

14

   

146

 

2007

110

7

 

1

102

 

2008

65

7

 

1

57

 

Table 1: -Continued-

Year

Number of Violations

Guilty*

Infractions

FTA/Bond

Forfeitures**

Nolle

Not Guilty

Illegal Possession (CGS 30-89(b))

2006

1,393

322

 

17

1,051

6

2007

2,208

19

775

47

1,182

 

2008

1,509

139

256

62

1,039

13

*Includes judge- and jury-made guilty decisions, convictions, and pleas.

**Includes failures to appear and bond forfeitures.

The data on criminal charges and their dispositions in this report was derived from a Judicial Branch report (State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Quarterly Report RV5143: Dispositions by Statute).

MISUSING A LICENSE AND MAKING A FALSE STATEMENT TO OBTAIN LIQUOR

The law generally authorizes anyone to use a driver's license or DMV-issued ID card to prove age when buying liquor. A liquor seller is authorized to accept it as legal proof of age. But it subjects anyone who misrepresents his age or uses another's license to obtain liquor to a criminal penalty of a fine of $200 to $500, 30 days in prison, or both (CGS 30-88a). A minor is also subject to the mandatory driver's license suspension described below.

The law requires liquor sellers to require anyone whose age is in question to complete an age statement form and prescribes the form (CGS 30-86a). 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 $100 for a first offense and up to $250 for subsequent offenses. The age statement must be kept on file in the permit premises.

The law immunizes a liquor seller from any penalty if (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.

Criminal Charges and Dispositions—False Statement

Table 2 displays Judicial Department data on the number of violations of CGS 30-88a and 30-86a and the disposition of charges for fiscal years 2006, 2007, and 2008. It shows that minors are not commonly charged with these violations. Charges are typically nolled, with one exception. Of the 25 minors charged with making a false statement to obtain liquor in 2008, 19 were judged guilty.

Table 2: Criminal Charges and Dispositions

Year

Number of Violations

Guilty*

Infractions

FTA/Bond

Forfeitures**

Nolle

Not Guilty

Misuse of License (CGS 30-88a)

2006

41

1

   

40

 

2007

37

2

   

35

 

2008

36

7

   

36

 

False Statement (CGS 30-86a)

2006

7

2

   

5

 

2007

7

3

   

4

 

2008

25

19

   

6

 

*Includes judge- and jury-made guilty decisions, convictions, and pleas.

**Includes failures to appear and bond forfeitures.

MANDATORY DRIVERS LICENSE SUSPENSION

The law (CGS 14-111e) requires the motor vehicles commissioner to suspend the driver's license or nonresident operating privilege of a minor who has been convicted of violating the prohibitions against: (1) misusing a license to obtain liquor (150 days) (CGS 30-88a), (2) possessing liquor on a public street or highway (60 days) (CGS 30-89(b)(1)), and (3) possessing liquor in any other public or private location (30 days) (CGS 30-89(b)(2)).

The Department of Motor Vehicles imposes the suspensions after being notified of the convictions by the Judicial Department. After the suspension period, a minor's license is automatically reinstated.

Table 3 displays the number of suspensions imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles for a minor's violation of the liquor law bans against misusing a driver's license to buy liquor (CGS 30-88a) and possessing liquor (CGS 30-89) in calendar years 2006, 2007, and January through August of 2008. Data on license suspensions was provided by DMV.

Table 3: Suspensions Imposed for Violating Certain Liquor Laws

Year

Misuse of

License

Purchasing

Possessing

2006

2

17

278

2007

 

72

1,615

2008

 

8

1,226

POSSESSING LIQUOR IN A VEHICLE

The law sets an additional penalty for a minor who possesses liquor in a vehicle, unless his parent or guardian is with him (CGS 14-111a). The minor may be summoned by a police officer to appear at a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing to show why his license should not be revoked. If the hearing officer finds that the minor knew or had reason to know that liquor was in the vehicle, he may revoke the minor's license for up to 60 days. After the revocation period, the minor may reapply for a license.

Table 2 displays the number of suspensions imposed by DMV for liquor possession in a vehicle for calendar years 2006, 2007, and January to August, 2008.

Table 4: Suspensions for Minors' Possession in Motor Vehicle

Year

Suspensions

Imposed

2006

39

2007

46

2008

15

COUNTERFEIT DRIVER'S LICENSE

The law requires the motor vehicles commissioner to suspend for two months the driver's license of anyone who possesses a counterfeit or altered driver's license (CGS 14-111f). DMV does not report any suspensions under this statute.

LOWER BLOOD ALCOHOL CONTENT (BAC) LIMIT FOR MINORS

The law sets a lower BAC limit drivers under 21 years old of .02% (CGS 14-227g). DMV reports suspending 10 minors for this violation in 2007 and none in either 2006 or 2008. Absent a prior conviction, the BAC limit for adults is .08% (CGS 14-227a).

BEER KEG REGISTRATION (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 (CGS 30-114 and 30-115).

The tag must be a numbered label furnished by the Department of Consumer Protection (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.

Judicial Department records show that no one has been charged with providing false identifying information to purchase a keg and that there have been a total of 12 individual charged with possessing a keg without a tag in 2006, 2007, and 2008. But the records do not indicate whether minors were involved. All 12 charges were nolled.

DD:ts