Many people don't realize there are still some places in the United States where alcohol sales are prohibited by law, commonly known as a "dry county."
The statutes prohibiting liquor trafficking are found in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 59. Suppose you transport alcohol without a license across state lines into a restricted area. In that case, you might be charged with the federal offense 18 U.S.C. 1262 transportation into state prohibiting sale.
Notably, there are still several restrictions in the United States on selling, transporting, or using liquor. At the same time, this is not a commonly charged offense, but there are situations where violations of this law will result in federal criminal charges.
18 U.S.C. 1262 says, “Whoever imports, brings, or transports any intoxicating liquor into any State, Territory, District, or Possession in which all sales, except for scientific, sacramental, medicinal, or mechanical purposes, of intoxicating liquor containing more than 4 per centum of alcohol by volume or 3.2 per centum of alcohol by weight are prohibited, otherwise than in the course of continuous interstate transportation… or attempts so to do, or assists in so doing, Shall (1) If such liquor is not accompanied by such permits, or licenses therefor as may be required by the law… or (2) if the laws prohibit all importation, bringing, or transportation of intoxicating liquor….”
Since this is a federal offense, you will generally face more severe penalties than charges under local state laws. Simply put, you will need a seasoned federal criminal defense lawyer to have the best chance at a favorable outcome. Let's review this federal law in more detail below.
What Does the Law Say?
An "intoxicating liquor" means any alcoholic beverage containing more than 4 percent alcohol by volume or 3.2 percent alcohol by weight. An average beer has 5% alcohol.
This includes most alcoholic beverages, such as beer, wine, and distilled spirits. The average beer is 5 percent alcohol. As noted above, it's a federal crime to knowingly transport or possess intoxicating liquor into an area of the United States where the sale of that type of alcohol is prohibited.
This federal statute often targets alcohol transportation by carriers, such as big-rig 18-wheeler trucks or railroads, but it can also be charged against individuals illegally transporting alcohol.
Why Does This Violate Federal Law?
Suppose you are transporting alcohol into a state where it's prohibited for sale. Why is this considered a federal crime that than a state crime?
The simple answer is that it deals with interstate commerce. Yes, most law violations within a state will indeed be prosecuted under state laws.
However, once an alleged crime crosses a state line, it could become a federal criminal matter. Most people today will believe this is not a crime and are unaware of this law.
However, transporting liquor across state lines into a prohibited area is still a federal liquor trafficking offense that carries prison time if convicted.
Suppose you are convicted of violating 18 U.S.C. 1262 transportation into state prohibiting sale. In that case, you face up to one year in federal prison per offense and fines.
What Are the Exceptions?
There are a few exceptions to 18 U.S.C. 1262, which allows the transportation of liquor into a prohibited area, such as the following:
- If you have a permit or license. Some states will issue a permit that allows people to bring alcohol into the state.
- If you are only passing through the state. This federal law only applies to individuals that bring prohibited alcohol into the state, not those who are only driving through it.
Suppose you are a big-rig truck driver transporting a large shipment of alcohol through the state as part of interstate commerce. In that case, you are not violating this federal law.
What Are the Related Federal Crimes?
18 U.S. Code Chapter 59 Liquor traffic has several federal laws that are related to 18 U.S.C. 1262 transportation into state prohibiting the sale, such as the following:
- 18 U.S.C. 1261 - Enforcement, regulations, and scope defines the laws on liquor trafficking enforced by the Attorney General, who can issue rules and carry out the provisions.
- 18 U.S. Code 1263 - Mark and label on packages define improper labeling and shipping of alcoholic beverages with a detailed bill of sale that lists the consignee and content.
- 18 U.S.C. 1264 - Delivery to a consignee defines knowingly delivering liquor shipments to somebody other than whom the shipment is consigned.
- 18 U.S.C. 1265 - C.O.D. shipments prohibited law makes it a federal crime for common carriers, such as railroad or express companies, ship spirituous, vinous, malted, or other fermented liquor, etc., by cash on delivery.
What are the Defenses for 18 U.S.C. 1262?
If you are under investigation or indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. 1262, our federal defense lawyers can use different strategies to obtain the best possible outcome, as discussed below.
Perhaps we can negotiate with the federal prosecutor for a reduced charge, case dismissal, or a favorable resolution. A plea agreement might be the best option when guilt is not in doubt but are prepared to take the case to a federal trial if necessary.
In most cases, the best option is to negotiate a plea agreement or try to get some evidence suppressed to force the prosecutor to drop the case.
Perhaps we can present evidence to create reasonable doubt or present effective defenses in court, but we need to first closely review all the case details.
We offer a free case consultation by phone or through the contact form. We provide legal representation for federal criminal matters across the United States. The Hedding Law Firm is located in Los Angeles, CA.