The county Board of Liquor License Commissioners conducted a sting operation March 5, employing an underage state police cadet.
Of the 15 local businesses targeted, eight were later found guilty of selling draft beers or six-packs to the cadet.
In some cases, the cadet was not asked to show identification. In one instance, he showed his ID, with a profile photo, clearly stating that his 21st birthday had not yet arrived. He was still served beer.
The eight establishments received fines ranging from $350 to $750. Two businesses with prior offenses were penalized by not being allowed to sell liquor for three days.
When someone complains that a business is serving minors (most complaints are phoned in anonymously), that business is placed on a list, said Ronald Lau, a board administrator. Sting operations target establishments on the list.
Many owners and citizens have questioned this process. Some say the sting operations employ entrapment.
Board members defend the process, saying they are concerned about sales of alcohol to county minors.
The board has the power to penalize businesses violating the law, and the penalties can be stiff, ranging from liquor license suspension to a $2,000 fine. The cost of licenses ranges from $650 to $1,500 a year.
The board is following the law and has a mandate to protect the public.
At a time when alcoholism is on the rise, with more and more of our children dying each year in alcohol-related traffic accidents, every law must be enforced.
To allow lawyers to decry the investigatory process as entrapment is a travesty. We cannot sit idly by and allow our children to die in alcohol-related accidents.
Minors are that, children. They do not have the judgment to handle intoxicants. Not only is that my opinion, it's the law.
Most of us in Carroll believe that local liquor establishments don't condone drinking and driving, nor do they in any way encourage it. Owners are aware of the liquor laws, especially those pertaining to sales to minors.
We need to monitor liquor establishments in Carroll County, but there must be a balance that protects small-business owners.
These eight businesses simply made mistakes. They have received their punishment, and that's where it ends.
All have stated they will re-examine their policies closely to make sure these infractions do not recur. They are to be applauded for their efforts to right their wrong.
The businesses have also made a strong argument that we need to attack the root of the problem -- minors misrepresenting their age to obtain liquor.
Under Section 403 of Article 27 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, it is unlawful for a minor to misrepresent his age to obtain liquor.
If found guilty, a juvenile could receive a fine of up to $25 or imprisonment up to 30 days, though the maximum sentence is rarely imposed.
We need to crack down on illegal use of fake IDs and to consider stiffening penalties against minors trying to obtain alcoholic beverages.
We need to examine the root of the evil. Why do our children turn to alcohol? We need to teach them the dangers of alcohol, not the glory of alcohol.
Only then will sting operations become a thing of the past.