How to Prevent Underage Alcohol Purchases

Underage alcohol abuse is a serious social problem. In addition, the use of false identification to purchase alcohol illegally creates serious problems for alcohol beverage retailers and their employees. The retailer can be fined and lose the license necessary to stay in business and an employee can suffer a fine and loss of employment.

In 1998, the city of Anchorage passed an ordinance allowing licensed establishments to hold anyone who illegally attempts to purchase alcohol with a false or altered ID civilly liable for damages of $1,000. Such individuals threaten the livelihood of both the establishments and its employees. In 2001 Alaska made the civil liability legislation state law.

By giving them an economic incentive, the law makes alcohol sellers partners rather than adversaries in the fight against illegal alcohol purchases. Many establishments shares a percentage of the monetary damages with employees who confiscate the fake Ids, thus giving them a strong incentive to be highly diligent when checking identification.

The recommended procedures for dealing with false Ids are:

  1. Confiscate the suspicious ID and call the police or sheriff. Turn over the offending minor and false ID to law enforcement officials. Collect as much evidence as possible, such as case number, a copy of the false identification, and a Statement of Proof of Age.
  2. Send a demand notice citing civil liability statute , 04.16.049 (e), and give the person 30 days in which to respond.
  3. If no response is received within 30 days, send a second notice giving the plaintiff 15 days to respond.
  4. If no response is received in 15 days, file a small claims complaint through the court system, which gives the plaintiff the opportunity to agree or disagree with the complaint.
  5. If the plaintiff agrees, the court issues a judgment of $1,000 plus filing fees. If the plaintiff disagrees, set a court date.

Since passage of the ordinance and law, one package store chain has seized over 1,600 false IDs.


  • Leffel, Michele. Warning to minors: Civil liabilities are imposed in many licensed establishments. Toast, 2006, 22(5), 82.