State to halt online alcohol sales to minors

Fake I.D.’s could become a thing of the past if Florida’s legislature allows online sales of alcohol from out-of-state distributors. Underage consumers are able to order alcohol on-line with just a few clicks of the mouse.

The Florida Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking demonstrated Tuesday how easy it is for a minor to purchase, receive and potentially consume alcohol products through on-line distributors.

Clay Richardson, a 20 year-old student at Florida State University from Jacksonville, placed three alcohol orders on-line from unlicensed, out-of-state companies at the request and under the supervision of the Coalition.

In the presence of State Attorney General Charlie Crist, police officers from across the state opened the boxes filled with several bottles of wine, a bottle of tequila and a bottle of vodka.

According to Richardson, he had no problem receiving the order.

“I used a credit card that is in my name and had the products shipped to my home. I was never asked to give proof that I was of age,” Richardson said.

None of the boxes that were opened at the press conference were labeled or gave any indication that the shipments contained liquor.

In fact, none of the return addresses on the packages clearly distinguished that it was being shipped from a winery or liquor store.

According to the FCPUD Web site,, this demonstration graphically showed the group’s support for Florida law requiring that alcohol only be sold through licensed businesses in Florida that can be held accountable for violations.

Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist voiced his concerns about underage drinking and the ease of purchasing alcohol illegally on-line.

“Easier access to alcohol by our youth is a recipe for disaster,” Crist said. “Florida law properly exercises tight control over alcohol sales and helps keep kids from getting their hands on beer, wine and liquor.”

According to Bill Herrle, vice president of the Florida Retail Federation, retailers put their license on the line every day. If they sell to minors, they’ll lose their livelihood. These out-of-state sellers, however, are unlicensed and unaccountable for their actions.

Florida statute states it is a felony to ship alcohol into Florida without going through a licensed Florida distributor or retailer. Senate Bills 480 and 960 will try to change that law this session.

“Current Florida law places appropriate hurdles in front of those who underage drink,” Crist said.

“Alcohol is not like any other product, and Florida regulates its sale because we don’t want it to be sold to children,” said coalition spokesman John Fleming.

FAMU Chief of Police Calvin Ross was among the law enforcement officers present at the launch of the coalition.

But some students don’t seem to see underage drinking as a problem on the Hill.

“Not really – I’ve never seen anyone get hurt,” said Lee Simpson, a theater student from Sneads.

“Of course I’ve seen a lot of drinking at parties and going out.

“I’ve never heard of using the Internet to buy alcohol. It’s not hard to go to the store to get some if you want some.”

Other students tend to err on the side of the law.

“It’s against the law, students shouldn’t do it, but they do,” said Mason Mayo, a senior pharmacy student from Blountstown.

“Underage drinking is a growing epidemic in our country and something needs to be done about it.”

Contact Jerica Wester at