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Administrative Penalties

Description of Strategy

An administrative penalty is a legal mechanism administered by a local governing body such as a city council or county board (instead of the court system). The mechanism allows the local governing body to penalize alcohol and tobacco license holders for failing to comply with state and local laws and ordinances regarding the sales of alcohol and tobacco products. The penalties usually consist of a monetary fine or suspension/revocation of the license. Most state laws target the behavior of individual sellers/servers and are enforced through the court system which can be time consuming and expensive. The administrative penalty is imposed upon the license holder by the local governing body and is therefore easier, less expensive, and more practical to administer. It is meant to be an alternative to criminal prosecution, making it more palatable to some communities. The administrative penalty can also be used in conjunction with prosecution and it can be written and passed as a local ordinance or state law (University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program, 2011).

Currently Wyoming state law makes it a misdemeanor offense for any person to sell alcoholic liquor or malt beverage to anyone under the age of 21 years (Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 12-6-101, 2017).

Discussion of Effectiveness


There is limited evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of administrative penalties as an independent prevention strategy to prevent sale of alcohol to underage youth. Evidence from a qualitative research study suggests graduated administrative penalties work as an enforcement mechanism for compliance checks and responsible beverage service training (Mosher, Toomey, Good, Harwood, & Wagenaar, 2002).


A systematic review found little direct evidence of the relative deterrent effect of different types of penalties on tobacco sales to minors. Removing the license to sell tobacco through administrative penalties may be effective if the licensing itself is strictly monitored (Stead & Lancaster, 2005). The review suggests using a graduated system of penalties beginning with a warning and progressing to a loss of license as the most appropriate form of penalty to discourage sales to underage youth.


Strategy Description

University of Minnesota Alcohol Epidemiology Program. (2011). Administrative Penalties. Retrieved July 27, 2012.

Wyoming Statute Annotated § 12-6-101 (2017). Retrieved September 6, 2017.

Evidence Base

Mosher, J. F., Toomey, T. L., Good, C., Harwood, E., & Wagenaar, A. C. (2002). State laws mandating or promoting training programs for alcohol servers and establishment managers: An assessment of statutory and administrative procedures. Journal of Public Health Policy, 23(1), 90–113. doi:10.2307/3343120

Sloan, F. A., Reilly, B. A., & Schenzler, C. (1994). Effects of prices, civil and criminal sanctions, and law enforcement on alcohol-related mortality. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 55(4), 454.

Stead, L. F., & Lancaster, T. (2005). Interventions for preventing tobacco sales to minors. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Wagenaar, A. C., & Wolfson, M. (1995). Deterring sales and provision of alcohol to minors: A study of enforcement in 295 counties in four states. Public Health Reports, 110(4), 419.

Futher Reading

Toomey, T. L., Lenk, K. M., & Wagenaar, A. C. (2007). Environmental policies to reduce college drinking: An update of research findings. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 68(2), 208.

Toomey, T. L., & Wagenaar, A. C. (1999). Policy options for prevention: The case of alcohol. Journal of Public Health Policy, 20(2), 192–213. doi:10.2307/3343211