Purpose of Practice

OLCC has been conducting compliance checks through its Minor Decoy Program since 1997. In this well-established program, people under the age of 21 years old (minor decoys), who look under the age of 26, try to buy alcohol at liquor stores or other outlets licensed to sell alcohol. These decoys, if asked for identification by the seller, either show their valid identification or say that they have no identification if that is the case. The sale of alcoholic beverages to a minor decoy, and/or failure to properly verify the decoy’s identification, may result in administrative and/or criminal sanctions for the liquor store agents, the liquor licensee or service permittee and possible criminal sanctions to others. The OLCC offers educational services on preventing sales to minors, verifying identification and recognizing false identification. The OLCC notifies all licensees and agents that it conducts decoy operations around the state. The notification includes an offering of education on checking identification. All licensees and liquor agents are subject to a decoy visit. The OLCC selects premises for decoy visits on a random or targeted basis, in compliance with state law and administrative rule (see below). This ensures consistency and fairness in minor decoy compliance checks throughout the state, independent of whether the OLCC or local law enforcement agencies conduct them. The OLCC cooperates with local law enforcement agencies to share information and coordinate decoy operations whenever possible. Police officers may accompany OLCC staff on OLCC decoy visits. OLCC staff may accompany police on their decoy visits. Oregon statutes and rules for minor decoy operation uniform standards: 471.346 Uniform standards for minor decoy operations; rules. (1) The Oregon Liquor Control Commission shall by rule develop uniform standards for minor decoy operations used to investigate licensees and agents operating stores on behalf of the commission under ORS 471.750 for violations of the laws of this state prohibiting sales of alcoholic beverages to minors. Uniform standards established by the commission under this section apply to all investigations conducted by the commission that use minor decoys. The commission shall encourage all law enforcement agencies of this state to use the uniform standards established under this section for minor decoy operations conducted by the law enforcement agencies. (2) To the greatest extent possible, the uniform standards established by the commission under this section: a) Shall be the same for minor decoy operations conducted by the commission and for minor decoy operations conducted by law enforcement agencies of this state; and (b) Shall provide for coordination between the commission and law enforcement agencies of this state in conducting minor decoy operations. (3) The uniform standards established by the commission under this section shall provide that minor decoy operations must be conducted on either a random or a targeted basis in cities with populations of 20,000 or more. Random minor decoy operations shall cover a range of retail outlets. Targeted minor decoy operations may be conducted for a single licensee or agent, but may be used only if there is a documented compliance problem with the specific licensee or agent that is the target of the operation. For the purpose of implementing standards for random minor decoy operations under this subsection, the commission shall by rule adopt a methodology that produces, to the greatest extent possible, an equal chance that any licensee or agent will be subject to a minor decoy operation. (4) Except as provided in subsection (5) of this section, the failure of the commission or of a law enforcement agency to follow uniform standards established by the commission under this section is not grounds for challenging any complaint, citation or conviction for violation of the laws prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors. (5) In determining whether to impose sanctions based on multiple violations of the laws of this state prohibiting sales of alcoholic beverages to minors, the commission may not consider any complaint filed against a licensee for selling alcoholic beverages to a minor, citation issued to a licensee for selling alcoholic beverages to a minor or conviction of a licensee for selling alcoholic beverages to a minor if the complaint, citation or conviction arose out of a minor decoy operation that was not conducted pursuant to the uniform standards established by the commission under this section. (6) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, the commission may not consider any sale of alcoholic beverages to a minor that results from a minor decoy operation that is not conducted in compliance with the standards established under this section for the purpose of imposing any civil penalty against a licensee, making a decision on the renewal, suspension or cancellation of a license issued under this chapter or otherwise sanctioning a licensee for the sale of alcoholic beverages to a minor. (7) The commission shall give notice of the uniform standards established under this section to all law enforcement agencies of this state that conduct minor decoy operations. [2001 c.791 §2] Oregon Administrative Rule 845-009-0200 provides for Uniform Standards for Minor Decoy Operations (1) Purpose. ORS 471.346 directs the Oregon Liquor Control Commission to develop, through rulemaking, uniform standards for minor decoy operations used to investigate licensees and agents operating stores on behalf of the Commission under 471.750 for violations of the laws of this state prohibiting sales of alcoholic beverages. It is the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's intention that decoy operations are to be an impartial test of a licensee or agent's ability and willingness to obey laws on preventing sale or service of alcoholic beverages to minors. (2) Uniform standards for minors used in minor decoy operations: (a) The minor must be under 21 years of age; and (b) The minor may not use false identification; and (c) The minor must look under the age of 26 years; and (d) The minor may not lie about their age. (3) Uniform standards for operations. In cities with populations of 20,000 or more, minor decoy operations must be conducted on either a random or targeted basis. (a) "Random" decoy operations. Selection of the agent(s) or licensee(s) to be visited will be done using simple random sampling which ensures to the greatest extent possible that each licensee or agent has an equal chance of being selected. The simple random sampling may be performed using a variety of generally accepted simple random sampling tools, such as a random number table, a random number generator, or other method. (b) "Targeted" minor decoy operations may be conducted for a single licensee or agent, but may be used only if there is a documented compliance problem with the specific licensee or agent that is the target of the operation. (4) Uniform standards for coordination with law enforcement agencies. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission will coordinate with law enforcement agencies to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, that: (a) Law enforcement agencies are informed of the Commission's uniform standards for minor decoy operations; and (b) Law enforcement agencies provide the Commission with copies of their minor decoy policies; (c) In order for the Commission to process violation cases in a timely manner, law enforcement agencies will be encouraged to provide the Commission with the results of their minor decoy operation(s). (5) DEFINITIONS: Documented compliance problem. For purposes of this rule, "documented compliance problem" means: (a) OLCC or Law Enforcement has received one or more documented complaints about an agent, licensee or license applicant alleging one or more of the following occurred at the retail sales agency or on the licensed premises: (A) Failed to check, or failed to properly check identification; (B) Allowed minors in prohibited areas; (C) Allowed minors to consume alcohol; (D) Sold alcohol to minors; or (b) The agent, licensee or license applicant has received one or more citations, or administrative Notice of Warning or Notice of Violation tickets for one or more of the following: (A) Failed to check, or failed to properly check identification; (B) Allowed minors in prohibited areas; (C) Allowed minors to consume alcohol; (D) Sold alcohol to minors. (6) Uniform standards for licensees. A licensee using a person under the age of 21 years for the purpose of investigating possible violations by employees of the licensee for sale of alcoholic beverages to a person or persons who are under the age of 21 years must: (a) Comply with the uniform standards for minors used in minor decoy operations; and (b) Notify the Director of OLCC's Regulatory Program and the Chief or Sheriff of their local law enforcement agency of the minor decoy's name, date of birth, provide a current photograph of the minor decoy, and the date(s) and location(s) of the minor decoy operation(s) at least 24 hours prior to the use of the minor decoy. (7) Licensees, service permittees, licensee's employee(s), agents, and agent's employee(s) must immediately return identification presented by the minor decoy upon request of law enforcement or an OLCC representative. Oregon Administrative Rule 845-005-0355 Restricting License Privileges and Conduct of Operations (1) The Commission may restrict a license or service permit when: (a) In the absence of a restriction, the Commission has a basis to cancel, suspend/fine or deny the license or service permit; (b) In addition to all or part of a suspension or fine, a restriction may prevent the recurrence of the problem(s) that caused the violation(s); or (c) The Commission determines that a restriction is in the public interest or convenience. (2) In determining public interest or convenience reasons to restrict a license or permit, the Commission considers factors that include but are not limited to: (a) The character or environment of the neighborhood in which the licensed premises operate; (b) The need to eliminate or prevent conditions that have contributed to or that the Commission reasonably believes will contribute to liquor or criminal law violations by the licensee, patrons of the licensed premises or the public; or (c) The need to limit the availability of alcohol to minors, visibly intoxicated persons or street drinkers. (3) The Commission has determined that it is not in the public interest or convenience to issue or renew: (a) A license that allows off-premises sales in an area frequented by street drinkers, unless the Commission restricts the sales of the alcoholic beverages associated with street drinkers; (b) A license to a relative or associate of a person whose license was cancelled, surrendered or not renewed because of problems at the premises that involved the person, unless the Commission restricts the relative or associate from permitting the person from being on the premises; (c) A license or permit to a person who has a recent history or record of alcohol or drug problems, unless the Commission requires the person to complete an alcohol/drug treatment program and follow the program's recommendations regarding alcohol/drug use or to abstain from alcohol/drug use. (4) When the Commission restricts a license or service permit, it notifies the licensee or permittee. If the licensee or permittee disagrees with the restriction, the licensee or permittee has the right to a hearing under the procedures in ORS chapter 183; OAR chapter 137, division 003; and OAR chapter 845, division 003. (5) A licensee or permittee who has a restricted license or permit must exercise license or permit privileges only in compliance with the restriction(s). Failure to comply with the restriction(s) is a Category I violation. (6) A restriction remains in effect until the Commission removes it. The licensee or permittee may ask the Commission to remove or modify a restriction. The written request must explain why the licensee or permittee believes the Commission should remove or modify the restriction. The Commission will notify the licensee or permittee, in writing, of its decision to approve or deny the request and the basis for its decision. If the Commission denies the request, the licensee or permittee has the right to a hearing under the procedures in ORS chapter 183; OAR chapter 137, division 003; and OAR chapter 845, division 003. (7) As used in subsections (2)(c) and (3)(a) of this rule, "street drinkers" mean people who drink unlawfully in streets, alleys, parks and other similar public places. (8) As used in subsection (2)(b) of this rule, "conditions" means conditions in the immediate vicinity of the premises that are related to the exercise of the license privileges and conditions in the premises or in the areas around the premises that the applicant/licensee controls.

Success or Improvements

Compliance rates have improved since OLCC minor decoys began in 1997. In 1997, 50 percent of establishments passed the compliance checks. By 2009, almost 80 percent passed.

Contact

Name: Linda Ignowski, OLCC Regulatory Program Director 
Agency: OLCC 
Address: 9079 SE McLoughlin Blvd., Portland, OR 97222 
Tele: 503-872-5115 
Email: linda.ignowski@state.or.us