Our New York City business lawyers believe this case shows how eager police can be to make a successful bust – even when the facts belie their case.
According to media reports, the teen, working with the police department, entered the a bodega on East New York Avenue and tried to purchase liquor from the clerk.
The clerk, a married father and immigrant from the Dominican Republic, requested to see the teen’s identification card. When the teen failed to produce it, the clerk refused to give in and sell to him.
So, the teen reportedly went outside and convinced a 51-year-old male customer to buy him the alcohol. The man agreed. But when he came outside with the alcohol, both he – and the clerk – were arrested for sale of alcohol to a minor.
The clerk ended up spending a night in jail, and was ultimately advised by an attorney to enter a plea of guilty to charges of selling liquor to someone under the age of 21 and to unlawfully dealing with a child.
However, before he was sentenced, new evidence emerged. The surveillance video in the store reportedly proved the clerk’s version of events. It clearly showed him repeatedly denying the teen’s requests to sell him liquor.
Subsequently, the charges against the clerk were dropped.
Now, the teen auxiliary officer has been arrested and arraigned on two felony counts and one misdemeanor count relating to the charges. Additionally, two full-time police officers – who without question should have known better – are also being investigated, though they have not been arrested and continue to work for the agency. Advocacy groups are calling for their termination – and wondering how many other cases like this have slipped through the cracks.
What this case amounts to is entrapment. Entrapment is when a person is induced by a law enforcement officer to commit a crime he or she would not have otherwise committed.
In this case, the clerk clearly refused to sell to the teen. His sale to the older gentleman would have resulted in supplying liquor to the teen, but that was not an action he committed intentionally. Therefore, his actions aren’t criminal.
Still, there are many situations in which store clerks or bartenders can get tripped up by undercover officers. Here are some ways you can help them avoid trouble:
- Prominently post a “born after” date near all the cash registers;
- Make sure you have a written and communicated policy on what you expect of employees who make liquor sales;
- Support your workers when they decline or refuse to make a sale;
- Make sure your workers understand the state’s Dram Shop Act, which makes clerks or bartenders responsible for injuries or death caused by a visibly intoxicated person who is served alcohol by that bartender or clerk;
- Have your employees attend a seminar on underage sales which is approved by the State Liquor Authority.
- Make sure your clerks and bartenders know they can be arrested if they sell or furnish alcohol to minors or people who are drunk.
The Wright Law Firm is a business law firm located in Midtown Manhattan. Call (212) 619-1500 for a confidential consultation.
Underage booze sale sting was a bust – for teen cop, Oct. 16, 2012, By Kerry Burke, Shane Dixon Kavanaugh, New York Daily News
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