After receiving several complaints from citizens about businesses selling beer to underage individuals, the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and the Alcohol Beverage Commission (ABC) began an investigation.
“The complaints usually come from parents. Sometimes schools contact us after they’ve received information from students that this has been going on,” said Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson.
The law enforcement agencies checked five convenience stores and one of the five did not sell. Key Mart Chevron on Auburn Road checked the minor’s ID and did not sell.
“The business followed the law, abided by that law and did not sell,” Johnson said. “And to that I say job well done.”
Normally the Mississippi Attorney’s Office or the ABC has individuals who have been approved to make underage purchases. The underage person can’t alter their appearance in an attempt to look older. The person has to have a valid Mississippi identification, usually a driver’s license, with a photo and correct information, especially their correct age. The child cannot refuse to offer the clerk his or her ID and can not say something like “I’m older than what it says.”
Three of the four other stores did not ask for identification, and sold to the minor. Those stores were Mike’s Texaco Express, 104 Road 100, Nettleton; Saltillo Quick Stop, 362 Mobile Street and TNT Main Stop, 2599 Main Street, Plantersville. The last store, Mooreville One Stop checked the minor’s valid (underage) ID and sold anyway.
“The crime is on the clerk who sold the beer. The sale doesn’t have a bearing on the store,” Johnson said. “That clerk is selling that beer because there is some beer permit holder, who owns that store. There is one strike given against that beer permit because of that illegal sale. “If that permit receives a certain number of strikes, even if it’s different clerks — they (the store) is subject to having their license pulled or removed.”
According to ABC Agent Pat Daily the punishment towards a clerk is first offense $500 and a one week suspension; second offense $1,000 and a two week suspension and third offense $2,000 and revocation. These charges are based within a 12-month period. There are times when parts of stores are shutdown.
“We have had stores where the ABC has pulled their permit and then we go in, put chains around the coolers, lock them and stop all beer sales,” Johnson said.
If a business owner has a question for the ABC, they can call (601) 923-7700. If you have any information related to a store selling to minors, please call crimestoppers 1-877-303-TIPS.