WPD informs bars of liquor ID law

Out-of-state students returning to campus this fall might have been confused when local liquor retailers and bartenders asked to see a passport instead of a driver’s license as proof of age for purchasing alcohol. Although the request might have surprised students, the law that requires out-of-state residents to show identification other than their state driver’s license as proof of age is nothing new.

Under chapter 138, section 34 B of Massachusetts state law, only four forms of identification are accepted as proof of age for the purchase of alcohol: a Massachusetts driver’s license, a liquor ID card issued by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, a passport or a United States military ID card.

The liquor ID law, which has been on the books for years, but has remained relatively unpublicized locally, is receiving new attention across the state this fall.

After Labor Day weekend, Arthur Parker, chief of the Williamstown Police Department (WPD), sent a letter to all local retailers with liquor licenses reminding the establishments about the ID law. “It was a reminder to the people and their employees what the best forms of ID are. It’s just good business,” Parker said.

The letter’s arrival was a shock to Mary Michel, owner of the Purple Pub on Spring Street. In the 27 years she has run the Pub, this was the first time Michel – who attends annual seminars related to liquor licenses and alcohol sales – had been contacted by the Williamstown police department regarding this law.

“I think if you’re a responsible license holder, and you check IDs, you should be able to accept identification from any state,” Michel said.

Michel estimated that she confiscates about 100 fake ID per year. She and her employees regularly consult a booklet of example driver’s licenses if they are presented with an unfamiliar state’s license.

Robert Chesboro, Michel’s attorney, said in explanation of the law, “If you accept one of four [sanctioned] forms of ID…as a retailer you are presumed to have exercised due care. When you accept another form of ID, you haven’t exercised due care.”

West’s Wine and Spirits on Spring Street refused comment.

According to Parker, businesses can be found criminally liable under the current law if a minor uses a fake out-of-state ID to purchase alcohol and then commits a crime while under the influence of alcohol.

The Williams Security Office did not have a detailed discussion with Parker about the reminder sent to local businesses coinciding with the beginning of this school year, but it was aware of the ID law. The law is discussed in the Training for Intervention Procedures (TIPS) classes that the College requires students to take before they can host registered parties.

“Currently we are discussing how it relates to checking, wrist-banding and the sale of alcohol at the Log,” said Jean Thorndike, director of security. “Apparently, the Log can still use out-of state driver’s licenses as proof of age. However, if there is an alcohol incident involving that student and it is determined the out-of-state license was a fake, then the Log becomes accountable for non-compliance with the law.”

“It would be great if all the 21-year-old out-of-state students obtained [a Mass. liquor ID] for their use. By doing so, students would make a statement to local businesses that they want to be responsible and do not want to jeopardize anyone’s liquor license,” Thorndike said.

The future of the current ID law may be short-lived. The Massachusetts legislature passed a bill this summer that would allow out-of-state licenses to be used as proof of age for the purchase of alcohol. The bill did not reach the Senate before the end of this year’s legislative session, but it is likely to be reintroduced during the 2001 session. The bill also protects liquor store and bar employees from criminal liabilities and civil penalties if a minor were to use a fake ID to buy alcohol.

Massachusetts liquor IDs are issued at the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The fee to obtain a liquor ID is $25.

To obtain the ID, a person must be 21 years old, not hold a Massachusetts driver’s license and have a valid social security number. The applicant must present three forms of identification to the RMV. One form must be a primary document, meaning that the RMV is able to contact the issuing authority to verify the document’s authenticity.

Acceptable primary documents include: a current or expired U.S. or non-U.S. passport; school yearbook with applicant’s photograph; current or expired U.S. military or military dependent ID; current or expired driver’s license from any U.S. state, U.S. territory, Canada or Mexico; original birth certificate; original or certified baptismal certificate; and certain U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service documents.

Secondary documents include a notarized copy of a completed income tax return; a bank statement or checkbook; an original or certified copy of a marriage certificate or divorce decree; certain life insurance papers; an original or certified copy of a non-U.S. birth certificate; original school transcripts; and a tuition bill or student loan coupon with applicant’s current address.

Applications forms are available at RMV offices or online at http://www.state.ma.us/rmv.