Questions about Identification Cards.  We have been asked by members whether carding of patrons is required and when it is appropriate to check a customer’s identification prior to selling them malt or brewed beverages.  Contrary to what some may think, there is nothing in the Liquor Code or the PLCB’s regulations requiring patrons to possess valid identification while on premises or when making a purchase at a beer distributor.  However, if you choose not to card people, be aware that the Liquor Code holds licensees strictly liable for service to minors and, thus, it is generally considered to be in the best interests of licensees to require customers to provide identification when their age is in question.

So, when is carding a good idea? Best practices dictate that you card every customer who purchases malt or brewed beverages at your distributor. Most distributor owners will not card everyone, and the PLCB’s Responsible Alcohol Management Program (“RAMP”) recommends that anyone who appears to be under the age of 35 be considered a potential minor and should be asked for identification.  Some business owners are concerned what a customer may think about being asked for identification, but it is your legal right to do so. In fact, the Liquor Code specifically authorizes licensees and their servants, agents, or employees to request that customers desiring to purchase alcohol present identification.

It is true fake ID’s exist and the quality of those fake identification cards seem to improve on a regular basis.  The General Assembly understood this to be the case, and that is why section 495 of the Liquor Code was drafted to provide licensees and employees of licensees with an affirmative defense against charges regarding service to minors in both civil and criminal proceedings.

Specifically, the Liquor Code provides that no penalty shall be imposed against a licensee or its employee for serving alcohol to a minor if it is established to the satisfaction of an administrative law judge that (1) the minor was required to produce an acceptable form of identification; and (2) either (a) the minor completed and signed a declaration of age card, (b) a photograph, photocopy, or other visual or video presentation was made, or (c) the identification was scanned by a transaction scan device and was found to be valid; and (3) these documents were relied upon in good faith.

Acceptable forms of identification for purposes of establishing the affirmative defenses set forth in the Liquor Code are as follows: (i) a valid photo driver’s license or identification card issued by the Department of Transportation or by any other state or Canadian driver’s license or other bona fide Canadian identification such as a Canadian-issued passport; (ii) a valid United States Armed Forces identification card; or (iii) a valid passport or travel visa issued by the United States or a foreign country that contains the holder’s photograph. Notwithstanding the validity of any form of acceptable identification, a licensee may still refuse service to anyone suspected of having a false or invalid identification.

It is also recommended that the licensee document the carding of each customer and

retain the information either electronically or in print format for a period of at least two (2) years.