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Why Bottled Beer is Better

Summer is a great time to be outside and to socialize….and law enforcement knows it. Summer bears witness to a noticeable uptick in all crimes and misdemeanors – especially alcohol related. DUI and MIP are the obvious ones – but some alcohol crimes are more esoteric.

Recently the Law Office of Chris Van Vechten was asked to defend a client charged with violation of Keg Registration. If you’ve never heard of this gross misdemeanor before, don’t be embarrassed – neither had Chris.

The gist of it is that people who rent or buy a keg – defined as a four gallon container or greater of malt liquor – must:

  1. Sign a declaration and receipt for the keg;
  2. Provide one piece of identification;
  3. Be of legal age to purchase, possess, or use malt liquor;
  4. Not allow any person under the age of twenty-one to consume the beverage;
  5. Not remove, obliterate, or allow to be removed or obliterated, the identification;
  6. Not move, keep, or store the keg or its contents, except for transporting to and from the distributor, at any place other than that particular address declared on the receipt and declaration; and
  7. Maintain a copy of the declaration and receipt next to or adjacent to the keg or other container, in no event a distance greater than five feet, and visible without a physical barrier from the keg, during the time that the keg or other container is in the purchaser’s possession or control.

Part 6 is likely where most people are going to be tripped up. After all, if you’re planning on taking the keg to a party and drinking the remains at home, which address are you supposed to put on the label? There’s no requirement that bars and taverns who lease these kegs fully apprise renters that this is not merely a tavern policy, this is the law – and failure to obey may result in 364 days in jail and/or a $5000 fine.

This is a particularly cheap charge for prosecutors to hurl at defendants. Law abiding citizens have never heard of this crime. Most lawyers have never heard of this crime. The Law Office of Chris Van Vechten has yet to find a single published opinion in the history of Washington State concerning this law. Yet the fact is that in some jurisdictions prosecutors are likely to throw this charge in with more noteworthy offenses – like public intoxication or supplying alcohol to minors – in order to strengthen their hand and force you into a plea deal that results in a criminal record.

The best defense is not to be charged.  So if you plan on celebrating summer with beer: don’t rent a keg, or if you do, only take it to where you plan to drink it. Better yet, opt for bottled beer instead. The Law Office of Chris Van Vechten is particularly partial to Alaska, Deschutes and 21st Amendment Brewery. Also, growlers from local breweries are a nice substitute to kegs.