Employees of 11 stores in Morganton are charged with selling alcohol to underage buyers during a June and July alcohol compliance check.
The compliance check came after the Morganton Department of Public Safety received complaints about underage alcohol consumption, said Capt. Jason Whisnant.
“That sort of spurred an interest in doing a compliance check,” Whisnant said.
Confidential informants who were 17-years-old were driven to 37 different convenience stores inside Morganton city limits by MDPS undercover officers and told to attempt to buy alcohol, Whisnant said.
“Whenever we were planning this, the plan was to visit nearly every store inside the city that sold alcohol because it is just as important to find that these stores are in compliance as it is to be able to cite someone,” Whisnant said.
The following stores all sold alcohol to the undercover buyers during the operation:
» Tobacco Barn at 569 East Fleming Drive
» Bypass Beverage at 556 East Fleming Drive
» Dollar General at 545 East Fleming Drive
» Big Daddy’s at 1308 Carbon City Road
» Colonel’s Pantry at 1007 Jamestown Road
» Jett Xpress at 410 Vine Arden Road
» Super Tienda Maya at 301 Avery Ave.
» Murphy's Express at 655 W. Fleming Drive
» Jack B Quick at 1270 Burkemont Ave.
» Tobacco Barn at 401 Old N.C. 18
» Salem Express at 1014 Salem Road
All of the undercover informants were using North Carolina driver licenses when they made the purchases.
“It was clear and easy to read,” Whisnant said. “There was no sneakiness about it in anyway. It was a straight up transaction.”
Whisnant said several of the clerks asked to see ID when the CI ’ s made the purchases.
“The CI handed them their legitimate ID, the clerk looked at it and handed it back to them and still made the transaction,” Whisnant said.
Each of the clerks were cited for a misdemeanor charge of selling alcohol to an underage person, which comes with a mandatory court date and the potential for a judge to impose a fine, Whisnant said. The stores also could face a fine, but that would be up to North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement.
It’s not just the clerks and stores who should be concerned about underage alcohol purchases.
“Any person under the age of 21 cannot have any alcohol in their system and operate a vehicle,” Whisnant said. “It’s an arrestable offense and that person is subject to license revocation.”
These sales come after a high school senior, Myles Davis, 18, was killed in a car crash on Jan. 23. A couple of hours before the crash, police said he purchased alcohol from a convenience store in eastern Burke County, according to a previous News Herald article.
Summer was an opportune time to conduct the compliance check, Whisnant said.
“This was a good time to do it,” Whisnant said. “You have a lot of underage, student-age folks that are out and about.”
At the end of the day, the compliance check wasn’t just about issuing citations.
“What we hope the outcome of this will be is to be better informed, to be more cautious,” Whisnant said. “People do make mistakes. People get in a hurry, but it’s very important when you have an obligation and control over sell of a substance to an underage person, you have the responsibility to make sure that sale is legitimate and it’s legal.”
Whisnant said MDPS will conduct future compliance checks.
“This won’t be the last time we do this,” Whisnant said. “It’s not to catch clerks making mistakes … it’s to have them better informed.”