Office of the Attorney General
Attorney General Greg Stumbo Issues Opinion Backing Legality of MADD Sticker Shock Program
Attorney General Greg Stumbo today released an opinion defending the right of high school students to place warnings against underage drinking on alcohol products. The Kentucky Office of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) had argued that the practice amounted to illegal possession of alcoholic beverages by a minor.
“This wonderful program allows teens to actively combat the dangers of underage drinking,” Stumbo said. “Someone over at ABC must have been confused about the law and I’m glad we could straighten this matter out.”
The Kentucky State Office of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) requested an Attorney General’s Opinion on the matter after the Kentucky ABC challenged the MADD “Sticker Shock” program as being illegal under KRS 244.085(3), illegal possession of alcoholic beverages by a minor.
MADD’s “Sticker Shock” program involves youth placing bright yellow stickers on multi-packs of beer, wine coolers and other alcoholic beverages in retail stores across the state. It is designed to spread the message that it’s illegal not only for an underage drinker to purchase alcohol but for adults and store personnel to facilitate it. The sticker reads, “Unlawful Transaction with a Minor/Providing Alcohol to a Minor; Class A Misdemeanor; 90 Days up to 1 year in Jail; up to $500 fine.”
High school students participating in the Sticker Shock program enter retail establishments, with the permission of the owners, and place the stickers on packages of alcoholic beverages which notify the purchasers of the law against providing alcohol to a minor. The stickers are placed on the packages in the presence of a MADD representative and a local law enforcement officer.
The opinion of the Attorney General notes that the high school volunteers plainly do not intend to use the alcohol, and do not even “lift or hold” any alcoholic beverages. “Based upon the facts presented, the minors participating in the Sticker Shock program do not violate KRS 244.085(3),” the opinion reads. “First, to possess a thing, a person must have actual dominion or control over the object…. The simple act of affixing a sticker would not appear to meet this standard. However, even if it did, under the circumstances you describe, it is clear the participants do not intend to use or purchase the alcoholic beverages they are touching.”
KRS 244.085(3) defines possession of an alcoholic beverage by a minor as follows: “A person under 21 years of age shall not possess for his or her use or purchase or attempt to purchase or have another purchase for him or her any alcoholic beverages. No person shall aid or assist any person under 21 years of age in purchasing or having delivered or served to him or her any alcoholic beverages.”
“The Kentucky ABC had argued that minors simply placing a sticker on a package of alcohol somehow constituted possession of the beverage,” said Attorney General Stumbo. “After researching the matter from a legal perspective, my office disagrees. With the negative and sometimes deadly effects of underage drinking, the efforts of these young people should be applauded.”
“MADD Kentucky's Youth in Action program empowers teens to reduce the social and retail availability of alcohol to minors and supports the enforcement of underage drinking laws,” said Angela Criswell, State Executive Director for MADD. “Sticker Shock is a core project the Youth in Action teens carry out in order to remind adults of the legal penalties for providing alcohol to a minor. It is an extremely popular project because they know that, of their peers who drink, many get the alcohol from friends and family members who buy it legally themselves but then illegally pass it along to someone who is underage.”
According to MADD, it has trained more than 250 students and 50 adults in 18 Kentucky counties in strategies to reduce underage access to alcohol since October of 2005.
MADD’s Youth in Action program, including the “Sticker Shock” project, is funded through the Kentucky State Police Governor’s Highway Safety Program. “Sticker Shock is a great avenue for educating adults about the legal consequences of purchasing alcohol for minors,” said Captain Tim Lucas, Commander of the Kentucky State Police Governor's Highway Safety Program. “This project is also a proven effective strategy in reducing underage drinking based on research from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.”
Click here to read the opinion. (52KB PDF)