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Reviewed Date: June 20, 2017
Alcoholic beverages--Laws and regulations
Licenses and permits--Motor vehicles
Taking the License of a Person Between the Ages of 18-21 -- for the Purchase of Beer
MTAS was asked whether the city judge can take the license of a person between the ages of 18-21 for the purchase, or attempt to purchase, or possession of beer?
Knowledgebase-Taking the License of a Person Between the Ages of 18-21 -- for the Purchase of Beer October 7, 1992 Your question is, can the city judge take the license of person between the ages of 18-21 for the purchase or attempt to purchase, or possession of, beer? My initial research led me to believe that the answer was yes. However, in light of State v. Barrett, 17 TAM 40-2 (Filed Sept. 28, 1992), and one word in Tennessee Code Annotated, § 57-3-301(c), I have changed my mind. That statute is the product of Public Acts 1991, Chapter 473. Difficult to figure out, the pertinent parts [(d)(1)(B)(i)] provide that:In addition to any criminal penalty established in this section, a court in which a person younger than twenty-one (21) years of age but eighteen (18) years of age or older is convicted of the purchase or attempt to purchase or possession of beer in violation of this section shall prepare and send to the department of safety, driver control division within five (5) working days of the conviction an order of denial of driving privileges for the offender. The court and the department of safety shall follow the same procedures and utilize the same sanctions and costs for an offender younger than twenty-one (21) years of age but eighteen (18) years of age or older as provided in title 55, chapter 10, part 7, for offenders younger than eighteen (18) years of age but thirteen (13) years of age or older. I was prepared to analyze that statute for you in conjunction with Tennessee Code Annotated, title 55, chapter 10, part 7, but in light of the language "criminal" penalty in the first line quoted above, it isn't necessary. Several recent cases involving municipal courts make it clear that such courts impose civil penalties rather than criminal penalties. In fact, one Tennessee Court of Appeals likened the collection of municipal court fines by the municipality with the collection of a grocery bill by a merchant. However, Tennessee Code Annotated, § 57-3-2301(c), makes the forfeiture of the driver license an addition to any criminal penalty. A municipal court judge, sitting as a municipal court hearing ordinance violation cases for the purchase or attempt to purchase, or possession of, beer on the part of a person 18-21 years of age does not issue criminal penalties for such violations. That is true even where the municipality has adopted as local misdemeanors, those offenses defined as misdemeanors under state law. The adoption of such misdemeanors converts the offense into an ordinance violation rather than a state law violation. A civil penalty attaches to the former, a criminal penalty to the latter. Section 6-4-301 of the city's charter grants the municipal judge concurrent with courts of general sessions in criminal cases. I initially thought that in that capacity he would have the authority to issue criminal penalties for the offenses noted, following which he could seize an offender's license. However, the Tennessee Supreme Court on September 28, 1992 declared that municipal courts that have been granted concurrent jurisdiction are inferior courts within the meaning of Article VI, § 4 of the Tennessee Constitution, and that the judges of inferior courts are required to be elected to a term of eight year and to meet certain other qualifications contained in Article VI, § 4. Because your municipal judge doesn't meet those qualifications, he can't hear state cases and impose criminal penalties. That probably leaves the general sessions court in your county as the next highest court that can issue criminal penalties and to seize driver licenses for the offenses in question. Sincerely, Sidney D. Hemsley Senior Law ConsultantSDH/