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Alcohol servers could face monetary, criminal repercussions for selling to minors

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By Sarah Bennett

With alcohol now on store shelves in Hardin County’s three largest cities, store employees not only could face license revocation or suspension but also a fine and a misdemeanor charge if caught serving to minors.

“As a cashier selling liquor, you can get in a lot of trouble selling to a minor or an intoxicated person,” said Bruce Blevins, store manager at E.W. James & Sons Supermarket in Elizabethtown. “You could be held liable if that person drives off and kills someone.”

If a store employee catches a minor attempting to purchase alcohol, Blevins said the employee would remove the alcohol from the counter and say, “I’m sorry, I can’t sell that to you.” The same would be done for an intoxicated customer, he said.

An adult caught providing alcohol to a minor could be charged with third-degree unlawful transaction with a minor, which is a Class A misdemeanor, said Bryce Shumate, public information officer with Radcliff Police Department. The maximum penalty for the offense is 12 months in jail and a $500 fine.

A retail licensee who sells to a minor could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, said Jenny Oldham, Hardin County attorney. If convicted, the employee could face up to 90 days in jail and a $250 fine.

Retailers also face Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control violations. Elizabethtown’s ABC officer, Tom Reynolds, said the department investigates complaints regarding businesses selling alcohol to minors.

Typically, Reynolds will let the commonwealth act first, he said, and their action will be to suspend the license in lieu of pay.

“Normally, the state doesn’t want to put anybody out of business, but we do want them to obey the law,” he said.

Asked if any local businesses have been in trouble for selling to minors, Reynolds said “yes,” but declined to name the businesses. The most recent business in trouble had its license suspended for a few days and paid a fine of more than $7,000.

The commonwealth mandates employees in a business where alcohol is served to take a Server Training in Alcoholic Regulations Class, which is managed by ABC. The next class offered in Hardin County is at 9 a.m. March 13 at Pritchard Community Center, according to the ABC website.

The class costs $35 to attend, and participants receive a certificate of completion, which lasts three years, Reynolds said.

Blevins said E.W. James employees attended the S.T.A.R. training but also received training from representatives at the supermarket chain’s home office.

The training goes through everything, he said, from how to detect fake I.D.s to state, county and city laws.

The I.D. is the key, Blevins explained, and not only are employees advised to card any customer they’re unsure about but also to take it out of wallets for examination.

“The key is looking at the picture and the dates,” he said about detecting a fake I.D. “A lot of people will just look at the dates, but you need to look at the picture and the dates.”

Shumate said the commonwealth has updated its driver’s license design in recent years, making it more difficult to manufacture a fake Kentucky I.D.

“(The information) is embossed on there,” Shumate said. “It’s not something sandwiched between a piece of plastic and lamination.”

A person younger than 21 can be charged with possession of alcohol by a minor under Kentucky law, Oldham said, and the penalty range depends on the age of the individual.

Virgil Willoughby, public information officer at Elizabethtown Police Department, said possession of alcohol by a minor is a violation but not a misdemeanor or felony offense. The minor would be cited for court and then released into the custody of a parent or adult guardian.

If the minor is intoxicated, he or she also could be charged with alcohol intoxication in public, which is a misdemeanor, Willoughby said.

Shumate said if a minor is pulled over after or while consuming an alcoholic beverage, he or she could face an under 21 DUI charge. Unlike an adult DUI, the minimum blood alcohol content for a minor to be charged is 0.02, the equivalent of one beer, he estimated.

Asked if the police department had charged a business employee for providing alcohol to minors, Willoughby said it hadn’t, but added EPD officers continue to educate themselves on the matter.

“As we continue to walk this road, we want to be proactive, not reactive,” he said. “We don’t want to be naive and think we won’t have issues in the future.”

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.