RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina stores and bars may soon face stricter punishments for serving alcohol to minors.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission says it would like to see the fines increased following several incidents including the deadly Orange County crash last weekend.
The ABC says underage drinking is a big problem in North Carolina and some establishments are making it easy for minors to get their hands on alcohol.
Police say 20-year-old Chandler Kania was able to buy beer at several bars with a fake ID before he drove drunk on I-85 in Orange County and crashed into another car, killing three people including a 6-year-old.
“We have evidence that shows he went to at least two different bar establishments that night to consume alcohol when he’s not old enough to consume alcohol or be permitted into those establishments,” said Orange County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Nieman at Kania’s first court hearing on Thursday.
Law enforcement agents are now investigating those bars, which authorities have not yet named. The ABC will then determine if those bars will be fined or lose their alcohol license.
Police may also charge the person who gave Kania the fake ID.
“Losing three lives is unacceptable and you can almost say we lost four lives because that young man’s life is gone now,” said Jim Gardner, chairman of the North Carolina Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
The agency will also look into the alcohol license status of several establishments in Durham.
Last week, the Durham Police Department and N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement handed out 31 citations to store employees in Durham who sold alcohol to minors.
Authorities visited 110 establishments on the night of July 17 and instructed minors participating in the sting to attempt to buy alcohol. If the store employee asked for identification, the minor would give their actual North Carolina ID.
Minors were able to successfully buy alcohol at thirty-one locations and employees at nine of the 31 establishments asked for identification but still sold the alcohol, police say.
Currently, if an establishment violates the ABC laws, the permittee is fined up to $500 for the first violation, up to $750 for the second violation, and up to $1,000 for the third violation.
Gardner says it may be time to double that fine and create some stricter penalties.
“If you’re going to have a permit to sell alcohol in this state, you’re going to have to play by the rules or lose the permit,” said Gardner.
The agency says responsibility also lies with the parents. They recently started a campaign called “Talk It Out.” It’s designed to raise awareness about underage drinking by encouraging parents to talk to their kids.
“Parents need to sit down with their children and talk about the dangers of alcohol and what can happen,” said Gardner. “Point out to them things that happened, unfortunately, like in Orange County. You simply just can’t play around with it.”