Checking IDs Is Serious Part of Permit Business
Legally Speaking by Marc Myers is a feature of the Ohio Tavern
Reprinted from Ohio Tavern News January 20, 2004
Once again in 2003, the most common citation issued to permit
holders requiring them to appear before the Liquor Control
Commission was for sales to underage people.
While most permit holders understand that identification should
be required if there is any doubt as to the purchaser's age, it is
important to review some basic rules abut requesting and verifying
Always ask for identification if there is any doubt as to the
purchase's age. This obvious rule is the most violated by
permit holders and their employees. "He/she looked old enough"
or "I was very busy and just forgot to check" are not defenses to an
underage sales charge.
Never sell unless the identification provided is a valid Ohio
driver's license or a stat of Ohio identification card issued by the
Bureau of Motor Vehicles. College IDs, military IDs and all
forms of ID will not afford the permit holder a defense.
The law provides a complete defense to a permit holder charged
with an underage sale provided the seller requires proper ID and
takes some additional steps. Simply glancing at a drier's
licensee is not enough to utilize the complete defense. The
seller must make a "bona fide" effort to ascertain the purchaser's
age by checking at the time of the purchase that the description on
the driver's license "compared with the appearance of the buyer" and
that the license has not be altered in any way. In other
words, the seller must make a reasonable attempt to verify that the
person presenting the driver's license is the person described and
pictured on the license. Look at the height, hair color and
photo on the license. If they don't match all with the
purchaser or there is any doubt, don't sell. If the license
has scratch marks or any other suspicious look, don't sell.
Many on-premises permit holders have IDs checked at the door and
patrons receive a hand stamp or bracelet indicating they are of age.
The patron then shows the hand stamp or bracelet to the bar person
when making a purchase. Courts have held that this process
does not give the permit holder a complete defense because the law
requires the ID must be check at the time of purchase by the seller.
Oftentimes in underage cases, the permit holder is cited to
appear before the Liquor Control Commission and the employee making
the sale is charged criminally in local court. It is common
for that employee to appear by himself in local court and plead "no
contest" simply to end the matter, which results in the employee's
conviction. Permit holders should be aware that the conviction
is, by itself, separate violation and precludes the permit holder
from contesting the case at the Liquor Control Commission.
Therefore, it is important that all defenses by raised by the seller
in local court.
Finally, it is crucial that permit holders impress upon employees
the seriousness of selling to underage people. Not only is the
criminal penalty a minimum fine of $500, but the permit holder is
strictly liable at the Liquor Control Commission for the employee's
actions. All too often a permit holder suffers significant
penalties and possible loss of the permit because of an
irresponsible or careless employee. Following the rules all
the time will save permit holders much anxiety and expense.
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Marc Myers is official legal counsel for the Ohio
Licensed Beverages Association. Questions or comments should
be address to Myers at Blaugrund, Herbert & Martin Inc., 5455 Rings
Road, Suite 500, Dublin, Ohio, 43017, (614) 764 0681