Is underage drinking a problem in Tallahassee?

The sale of alcohol to minors is a problem in college towns such as Tallahassee. For Patrick Bentley, a senior music industry student, he sees underage drinking happening in Leon County quite often.

“I know of people who will get their older siblings ID and pass it off as themselves,” Bentley said.

However, he has seen it to be difficult for males in the city to get away with the offense when compared to females.

“I know of many places in the city that sell alcohol without requesting ID from females. They will be hard on guys for their ID’s but will not do the same with the females,” Bentley said.

In response to this problem, the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco are trying to crack down on the issue with the help of the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

Leon County Sheriff Office’s (LCSO) Public Information Officer, Grady Jordan, said that LCSO tends to deal with the problem of underage drinking in the aftermath.

“LSCO is often called after minors have obtained alcohol in Tallahassee. This happens often at unsupervised house parties that have caused a disturbance in the neighborhood,” said Jordan.

Under section 562.11 in the Florida statutes, it reads that it is illegal to sell, give, or serve alcoholic beverages to a person under 21 years of age. This law is an important of ensuring that minors are not able to buy and consume alcohol to prevent long term health effects that include cancer, damaging one's central nervous system, or the development of alcoholism.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is a non-profit organization that was founded by a mother who lost her daughter in a crash. Their mission is to work to protect families from drunk driving and underage drinking.

Tallahassee MADD’s program specialist, Claudia Machado said, “Research shows that the brain does not fully develop until your mid-twenties. So, if you have individuals who are drinking underage, they are not giving their brain a chance to develop correctly. This can cause brain damage due to drugs or alcohol.”

According to Kathleen Keenan of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT), many minors are being sold alcohol through fake IDs. The division administers send out undercover agents to take control over the alcoholic beverage industries with the mission of keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors by ensuring that licensed establishments are in compliance with the laws against selling to minors. Last year, ABT agents completed 244 minimum age verification compliance surveys at each licensed establishment that sells alcohol in Leon County. Of those surveys, 170 retailers did not sell alcoholic beverages to the agents.

Over the past year, 195 minors have been arrested for possessing alcohol in Leon County and 32 people have been arrested for either selling or serving to minors. Between the help of ABT and LCSO they hope to see these numbers decrease in the coming months.