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ABC: Dry counties hard to enforce

By Staff
Ed Howell
Special to the Enquirer
MONTGOMERY – The head of enforcement for the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board said enforcing alcohol laws in dry counties is more difficult because agents encounter more legal obstacles than if they were to go into an establishment in a wet county.
"It's more difficult," Roy Houlton said. "The people in a dry county are not operating under the ABC" in terms of rules that immediately allow law enforcement to enter a restaurant or store to search inventory, records, licenses, and other items without the court's consent.
However, in dry counties liquor is being sold without a license, and much of it is sold in residences.
"It's more difficult to make an arrest because we don't have the freedom or right to go into a residence without a search warrant.
"We have a right to go in and make a case a lot faster than in a dry county," he said.
He said one still finds cases in dry counties where the interior of homes are converted into liquor stores, and even teenagers will go out to buy, although he said they pay a little more as they are underage.
Houlton said bootleggers can be arrested, but crimes against bootleggers are classified as misdemeanors. The day after an arrest "they're back in business." Sometimes a relative will take over the business after an arrest, although normally a bootlegger will not go to prison. Occasionally they may serve some time in the county jail, he said.
"It's not like they're selling drugs," he said. "A lot of them go back into business. It's continuous."
State law defines that in a dry county the limit for possession for anyone age 19 or over is three quarts of liquor or wine and one case of beer. However, those beverages cannot be in open display in the passenger area of a vehicle, meaning usually that it must be kept in a car. Houlton noted ABC agents have to make a traffic stop and see beer or wine in plain view inside the car before they can make an arrest.
Outside of that, the beverage can be used in their homes, but cannot be for resale and must have ABC stamps. Alcohol can be purchased at an ABC store or at a store licensed by the board – but that usually means going into a wet county to make the purchase, transporting it in the trunk of the car and then into the house, where one can finally start drinking, as the law says, "for his own private use."

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