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The New York State Liquor Authority (“SLA”) utilizes underage agents to investigate allegations of sales of alcoholic beverages to minors. The agents are recruited from school programs where they are pursuing careers in law enforcement and criminal justice. Under the supervision of a law enforcement agency, the agent will enter a licensed premises and attempt to purchase the alcoholic beverage. In the past, the agent was instructed not to misrepresent their age is asked. This policy has recently been changed. The agent has been advised not to provide their true age to the seller.

It is important that licensees are aware that this is entirely legal. The agents do not have to reveal their true age and their association with law enforcement. Licensees also must be aware that by asking someone their age is not sufficient proof and is not enough to prevent and underage sale. A licensee must also understand that an underage sale is considered “strict liability” offense, which means that the licensee is responsible regardless of intent. In order to avoid or at least lessen the risk of selling to a minor, licensee should request valid identification from customers. The SLA encourages the use of scanning devices to verify the validity of the offered identification.

The SLA strongly encourages all employees involved in alcohol sales complete an Alcohol Training Awareness Program (“ATAP”) course.

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