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Local Store Clerk Cited for Selling Alcohol to a Minor

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By Lookout Staff

May 31, 2023 -- A Santa Monica store faces administrative action from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) after police cited a clerk for selling alcohol to a minor, SMPD officials announced Wednesday.

The citation resulted from a minor decoy operation staged at one of eight licensed retail establishments in the city on May 5 in which minors under the direct supervision of department agents attempted to purchase alcohol.

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The Police Department did not disclose the name of the local store facing ABC administrative action.

Those who sell alcohol to a minor face a minimum fine of $250, and/or 24 to 32 hours of community service for a first violation, according to police.

"In addition, ABC will take administrative action against the alcoholic beverage license of the business where alcohol was sold to a minor.

"That may include a fine, a suspension of the license, or the permanent revocation of the license," police officials said.

During Minor Decoy operations, police conduct compliance checks as a way to limit alcohol access to those under the age of 21, who have a higher rate of drunken driving fatalities than the general adult population.

“Minor Decoy operations hold accountable those who sell alcohol to minors,” said ABC Director Eric Hirata. “Keeping alcohol away from youth is a priority.”

The California Supreme Court paved the way for the operations when it ruled in 1994 that minor decoys could be used by law enforcement to check whether stores were selling alcohol to minors.

At the time, the violation rate was nearly 50 percent, according to ABC officials.

"In some cities, almost one out of every two stores failed to check a minor’s age and sold them alcohol," ABC officials said.

By 1997, the violation rate had "dramatically decreased" in cities that used the program on a regular basis.

"Minors then turned to the 'shoulder tap' method of getting alcohol by standing outside of a liquor store, market or gas station and asking adults to buy them alcohol," according to ABC's website.

Authorities countered with Underage Decoy Shoulder Tap Operations where the decoy asked adult patrons entering the store to buy an alcoholic beverage on their behalf.

During he past year, Santa Monica police have staged at least two Decoy Shoulder Tap operations focused on adults who knowingly furnish alcoholic beverages to minors.

During an operation last August, one of the 46 adults approached by the minor decoy was issued a misdemeanor citation for "furnishing a minor with alcohol," police officials said.

In February, none of the 47 adults approached during a similar operation was cited, according too police.

During a statewide operation in March, more than 130 people were cited during should tap operations staged by 44 local law enforcement agencies.

Funding for minor decoy operations is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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