I am in charge of hosting an event, here in California, and I had a quick question regarding the legality of an offer that was presented to me recently.

The event that we are hosting will be providing alcohol, however we will also be allowing minors (below 21) onto the premises. This will be a large event, and checking identifications on the way in is always tedious. Therefore a local tech firm has offered to integrate identification verification software that checks if the person is 21+ upon sign up of the event. Then at registration the participant is provided their package with a wristband if they are 21+.

Therefore, my question is if there is any legal implication of verifying a persons age for alcohol consumption completely via the internet? Are there certain steps that we need to make sure that the web application takes in order to verify the age (e.g. Federally accepted ID)? Finally, would this be a state-by-state basis or a blanket regulation?

I hope I gave enough information. Thank you in advance!

1 Answer 1


ID laws are on a state-by-state basis, since liquor sales are regulated by the individual states. Under California law (CA Bus & Prof Code 256660), it is unlikely to be acceptable. The law provides the following as allowed forms of identification:

(a) Bona fide evidence of majority and identity of the person is any of the following:

(1) A document issued by a federal, state, county, or municipal government, or subdivision or agency thereof, including, but not limited to, a valid motor vehicle operator’s license, that contains the name, date of birth, description, and picture of the person.

(2) A valid passport issued by the United States or by a foreign government.

(3) A valid identification card issued to a member of the Armed Forces that includes a date of birth and a picture of the person.

The law does not actually require you to check IDs, rather the law says that if you do, you have a defense against prosecution or loss of license:

(b) Proof that the defendant-licensee, or his or her employee or agent, demanded, was shown, and acted in reliance upon bona fide evidence in any transaction, employment, use, or permission forbidden by Section 25658, 25663, or 25665 shall be a defense to any criminal prosecution therefor or to any proceedings for the suspension or revocation of any license based thereon.

A wristband is not bona fide evidence, and it doesn't matter if one gets one only after presentation of acceptable ID.

The law does not define "federal, state, county, or municipal government" and does not say "of the United States". It is well known that Queensland is a state, in Australia, and the Australian government says it has a federal government. It is reputed that (except for passports), businesses have a practice of not accepting non-US government IDs, out of an abundance of caution. Such caution would be unnecessary if there had been a court case ruling that Australian government IDs are bona fide IDs under the ID law, but that has not happened. Nor has the legislature reworded the law.

For comparison, here is what is accepted in Washington state (WAC 314-11-025):

(a) Driver's license, instruction permit, or identification card of any state, or province of Canada, from a U.S. territory or the District of Columbia, or "identicard" issued by the Washington state department of licensing per RCW 46.20.117;

(b) United States armed forces identification card issued to active duty, reserve, and retired personnel and the personnel's dependents, which may include an embedded, digital signature in lieu of a visible signature;

(c) Passport;

(d) Merchant Marine identification card issued by the United States Coast Guard; and

(e) Enrollment card issued by the governing authority of a federally recognized Indian tribe located in Washington, if the enrollment card incorporates security features comparable to those implemented by the department of licensing for Washington driver's licenses.

As far as I know, no state accepts proxies such as "wristband given by a party who checks IDs", or "photocopy of government ID".

  • Thank you so much for your input! This will really help lead us to a decision. Sep 5, 2017 at 5:00

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