NC Alcohol Law Enforcement Concludes Statewide Enforcement Operation

    By Joseph E. Houchin, Alcoholic Beverage Team

    This week North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) announced the conclusion of a statewide operation resulting in hundreds of criminal charges against individuals and violation citations against ABC permitted businesses. ALE is the state’s lead enforcement agency for alcoholic beverage control as well as lottery and tobacco regulation. ALE agents utilize their investigation and law enforcement authority to target businesses operating in violation of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Commission regulations as well as illegal unpermitted operations. 

    As part of the enforcement effort, 21 ABC-permitted establishments were issued violations. Additionally, ALE announced that the operation resulted in 189 arrests of individuals amounting to 449 total charges including both felony and misdemeanor alcohol and drug counts. ALE revealed that four search warrants were served as part of the operation leading to the seizure of six firearms, dozens of fake IDs, drugs, and cash.

    The ALE operation reportedly occurred across 22 counties or municipalities in North Carolina. Along with ALE officers, which are structured into eight districts across the state, the effort was conducted in coordination with more than a dozen separate law enforcement agencies including the US Army Criminal Investigative Division, NC Probation and Parole, NC License and Theft Bureau, and various other sheriff’s office and police departments.

    An ABC permittee that is cited for a violation by ALE can expect to receive a notice from the ABC Commission referencing the alleged criminal charges or regulatory violations. A violation can result in monetary fines and even suspension or revocation of the business’ permit to sell alcohol. Upon receipt of a notice of violation, a permittee is notified of its right to contest the allegation as part of the hearing process before the Office of Administrative Hearings or may have the opportunity to enter into a compromise process.

    In 2020, a report commissioned by the North Carolina General Assembly was critical of the ABC Commission’s penalty review structure, finding that “administrative penalties are not proportional, lacking policies, procedures, and guidelines that would limit variance and subjectivity.” The report recommended that the General Assembly establish better guidelines to ensure the proportionality of penalties to offenses, increase transparency, and establish management criteria. 

    While ABC permit violations are handled as part of the ABC Commission administrative process, criminal charges are prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office local to the alleged offense. Additionally, if a controlled substance has been seized as part of an enforcement action, the NC Department of Revenue can issue a unauthorized substance tax assessment which carries its own potential consequences. Due to the high risks involved, including criminal convictions, suspension, or revocation of a business’ ABC permit, and tax liabilities, it is important to immediately consult with an experienced attorney if you have been cited or charged as part of an ALE enforcement action.   

    The contents of this publication are intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on specific facts and circumstances. Copyright 2024.