A Hillsborough County Sheriff’s deputy issues a “Notice to Appear” to one of 31 store clerks and sold alcohol products to underage individuals. The recent operation was conducted to bring public awareness of the dangers of underage drinking.

For too many young people spring break and drinking goes hand in hand, what is often left out of the equation, or ignored is the tragic consequences of excessive and underage drinking.

According to the Tampa Alcohol Coalition, underage drinking and other high-risk drinking is usually associated with vehicle crashes, violence, drowning, sexual assault and more. More than 5,000 young people under the age of 21 die every year because of underage drinking.

To ensure a safe 2012 Spring Break, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), along with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, were out in force to check that area retail alcohol vendors will not be selling alcohol products to underage individuals.

“Our goal is to bring public awareness of the dangers of underage drinking and ensure commercial alcoholic vendors “spring on board” with our mutual mission to have a safe 2012 Spring Break,” said  HCSO spokesperson Larry McKinnon.

During its operation, deputies checked 141 retail alcohol vendors throughout Hillsborough County with the assistance of undercover 18-19 year old administrative aides, who attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages.

The operation began at 3 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, and continued  until approximately 10 p.m., resulting in the arrest of 31 store clerks for Sale of Alcohol to a Person Under 21.     

“All individuals arrested were issued a “Notice to Appear” and released at the scene,” McKinnon said.

Among those arrested was 59-year-old Stephen Puikeel, a clerk at the Seffner Food Store located at 340 MLK Dr. Deputies said that it was Puikeel’s fifth arrest for selling alcohol to a person under 21.

According to the Florida Alcohol Law-Under Age 21, it is illegal for a person under the age of 21 to purchase or possess alcoholic beverages, and for anyone to purchase or provide alcohol for persons under the age of 21.

The law also reads that the sale of alcoholic beverages to underage individuals is a second degree misdemeanor. Adults who allow underage drinking parties in their home can be arrested for violating the open house party statute, while teens or young adults under age 21 using false identification (fake ID) can be charged with a felony.

McKinnon said that deputies continued spot checks of alcohol retails sales outlets throughout Spring Break and random checks will continue in the future.

For more information about alcohol related facts please visit, www.tampatac.org

For more information on HCSO, please visit www.hcso.tampa.fl.us.

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