SCSO checks for sales of alcohol and tobacco to minors
Looking for minors to participate in compliance checks in the county
by Dawn Ballou, Pinedale Online!
October 30, 2009
It is illegal to sell alcohol to minors under the age of 21 in Wyoming.
The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) periodically conducts tests of establishments that are permitted to sell or serve alcohol and tobacco to ensure they are checking identification of anyone they question is under legal age to purchase these products.
The SCSO held a press conference on Thursday, October 29, to get out the word they are looking for people who will agree to be "test minors" to participate in the alcohol and tobacco state-authorized compliance checks within the county.
Deputy Al Kaderavek, in charge of conducting the compliance checks with the SCSO, said individuals who cooperate with the sheriff’s office in these checks must meet the following criteria:
- Be between the ages of 18 and 20.
- Have no prior convictions for Minor in Possession (MIP).
- Be able to follow directions.
- Be honest, and willing to step into the role.
Youths who agree to be a test minor don’t have to live locally, but it is more convenient if they do, Kaderavek said.
Deputy Kaderavek said the compliance test minor is instructed in advance they must be truthful about their age, if asked, and they must carry and be able to present their real identification. The minor is not permitted to mislead the bartender in any way. The test minor must not wear any disguises, additional make-up, or in any way attempt to alter their appearance to make themselves look older than they actually are. The SCSO photographs the minor prior to each session so they have a visual record of how the minor looked and the clothes they were wearing during the compliance checks. Deputy Kaderavek said officers are always nearby when compliance checks are done and they hear the entire conversation between the business representative and the minor attempting to buy alcohol. The minor never touches the alcohol during the compliance check.
The guidelines for establishments that sell or serve alcohol are to check for ID for anyone who looks under the age of 30.
Anyone who sells alcohol to a minor may face a misdemeanor penalty of $750 fine and up to six months in jail. Anyone cited for this infraction has to immediately see a judge for the offense. Citations go to the State Liquor Commission and any establishment who has an employee that sells alcohol to minors runs the risk of jeopardizing their liquor license.
Compliance checks are part of a broader initiative by Wyoming First Lady Nancy Freudenthal, through the Wyoming Department of Health, to curb childhood drinking in the state. (See the related links at the end of this story to find out more about this state-wide initiative.) The $60 paid to the minor for each compliance check comes from a grant from the Chiefs and Sherriff’s Association of Wyoming.
Sublette County Sheriff Wayne "Bardy" Bardin said there are 31 liquor licenses in Sublette County. "There isn’t one person who would wantonly sell to anyone underage and jeopardize their liquor licenses." He said it is a fast-paced business with one customer after another, and sometimes employees get into trouble when they don’t take the time to check identification.
"There is absolutely no trickery involved in it," emphasized SCSO Captain Mike Peterson. "It takes 30 seconds to ask and look at ID," he said."It’s not tough. When in doubt, don’t serve."
The compliance checks are to ensure establishments are meeting the law and find out who is selling to underage people and who is not. Last year around 30 percent of the people tested in the county did not pass the first round of compliance checks. That has prompted an increased effort to provide information and education to local establishments to make sure employees who serve alcohol know the law and are doing ID checks.
The SCSO offers a free TIPS training class (Training for Intervention ProcedureS) and they have packets they give out to establishments with information detailing ID check guidelines, training materials, and state statutes that deal with sales of alcohol to minors.
Deputy Kaderavek said some of the beer wholesale companies offer special calendars and calculators that make it easy to determine the date for legal age for each day of the year. There are also booklets available that show pictures of all the kinds of IDs used in all the 50 states (driver’s licenses, passports, green cards, etc), so store sales clerks and bartenders can see what identification looks like for all other states.
In Wyoming, the graphic design layout of the driver’s license for anyone under age 21 looks different from the layout of the license of a legal adult (portrait versus landscape layout orientation of the driver’s license).
Establishments that sell alcohol and tobacco are aware officials may check them at anytime during the year for compliance to test they are not selling to underage persons. Most establishments post signs at prominent locations in their places of businesses advising it is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 and their employees routinely "card" customers to check identification for proof of age. Sales persons encountering any minor attempting to purchase alcohol is expected to ask the youth to leave the place of business.
The Sheriff’s Department also conducts tobacco sales compliance checks within the county using similar methods. It is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to purchase tobacco.
Any youth interested in participating in Sublette County alcohol or tobacco compliance checks, or for more information about topics covered in this article, contact Deputy Kaderavek at the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office in the Sublette County Courthouse in Pinedale, or call 307-367-4378.