Reporting Deputy: Sergeant David Clark
File # N/A
On September 17, 2022, deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, along with agents from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) conducted a Minor Decoy Operation and Decoy Shoulder Tap Operation in the cities of Lake Elsinore and Wildomar. The operation netted one citation of a store clerk for selling alcohol to minors at a business in the 100 block of W Graham Avenue in Lake Elsinore and two citations for adults who purchased alcohol for minors at a business in the 31000 block of Riverside Drive in Lake Elsinore.
The Minor Decoy Operation involved minors who work under the direct supervision of deputies and agents. The minors attempted to purchase alcohol from seven retail licensees in the cities of Lake Elsinore and Wildomar.
Those who sold to the minor face a minimum fine of $250, and/or 24 to 32 hours of community service for a first violation. 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, or the permanent revocation of the license.
In addition to the Minor Decoy Operation, deputies and ABC agents also conducted a Decoy Shoulder Tap Operation. A Decoy Shoulder Tap Operation targets adults who purchase alcohol for people less than 21 years of age. Under the program, a minor under the direct supervision of a peace officer will stand outside a liquor or convenience store and ask patrons to buy them alcohol. The minor indicates in some way he or she is underage and cannot purchase the alcohol. If the adults agree to purchase alcohol for the minor, agents then arrest and cite them for furnishing alcohol to the minor. The penalty for furnishing alcohol to a minor is a minimum $1000 fine and 24 hours of community service.
ABC and local law enforcement conduct compliance checks statewide to reduce the availability of alcohol to minors. Statistics have shown that young people under the age of 21 have a higher rate of drunken driving fatalities than the general adult population. About 25 percent of alcohol-related crashes involve underage drinking according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Minor Decoy operations have been conducted by local law enforcement throughout the state since the 1980s. When the program first began, the violation rate of retail establishments selling to minors was as high as 40 to 50 percent. When conducted on a routine basis, the rate has dropped in some cities to 10 percent or even below. In 1994, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that use of underage decoys is a valid tool of law enforcement to ensure that licensees are complying with the law.
Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) through the Department’s Alcohol Policing Partnership program. The ABC is a part of the Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency. It enforces the regulation of the state’s alcohol laws as set forth in the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Act.
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