As state and local authorities crack down on underage drinking, the fines and fees on businesses that sell alcohol to minors continues to increase. Anyone under the age of 21 is not permitted to purchase or drink alcohol. Tobacco sales are age-restricted as well. Enforcement by federal, state and local officials is expected, and many bars, grocery stores, restaurants and nightclubs are scrambling for a way to stay one step ahead of those sporting fake ID cards to avoid infractions. Checking IDs is not enough. False identification is readily available and some young people go to every effort to go to bars or buy alcohol and tobacco products from legitimate businesses. It can be a status symbol for the underage patron to “get away with it.”
While some fakes can be spotted easily, others are much more difficult to distinguish between the real deal and those made at home on a computer. The fact remains that no matter what, the business establishment will be still be held responsible for serving minors if the alcoholic beverage control board or a law enforcement agency discovers they have done so.
One way to combat this is through modern technology. There are now portable ID scanners available that help businesses verify the age and authenticity of the person attempting to enter or make purchases. These devices have age verification software that documents the process. An electronic readout is activated by swiping the magnetic strip on a driver’s license or identification card. This protects the bar or nightclub from admitting patrons that are not allowed to be there or denying illegal sales to minors. By purchasing these machines for hand-held or fixed use, establishments can weed out the minors and prevent trouble. Most are battery-operated and decode magnetic strips by a simple swipe of the stripe. If the ID is false, an alarm will sound. The false information will be stored in the device through the software for future reference, if needed.
As a result, these businesses are protecting themselves from losing money and business on infraction enforcement. For example, businesses getting caught for serving minors can be given a stiff monetary punishment of several hundred dollars on the first infraction. It increases with additional violations. Legal charges, such as contributing to the delinquency of a minor, include attorney’s fees and possibly more fines.
In some states, shutting down a business for the night after a raid on minors can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars in revenue. In some states, a third infraction results in automatic revocation of the liquor license and criminal charges as well. When a company loses its liquor license altogether, they will likely go out of business.