eVineyard Retail Sales-Massachusetts, Inc. v. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm.

Case: eVineyard Retail Sales-Massachusetts, Inc. v. Alcoholic Beverage Control Comm., N.E.2d (2008 WL 681901, Sup. Ct., Mass., 2008)

Facts: Wine.com sells wine over the Internet to consumers around the country. eVinyard is a subsidiary of wine.com that is licensed to sell alcoholic beverages in Massachusetts. The state Attorney General set up a sting operation by having a 19-year-old order from wine.com. The decoy claimed to be 22; as the instructions stated you must be at least 21. Her order was processed by eVineyards and delivered by Federal Express which is paid a $2 premium to check ID and verify that recipients of wine orders are at least 21. The label on the box clearly states that is to be the case. FedEx delivered without checking for ID. eVineyards was then charged with violating state law against sales to minors. The state Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission suspended eVineyard’s license to sell for 10 days and FedEx had its license to deliver alcohol suspended for three days. eVineyard appealed and the trial court reversed the ABC Commission. It appealed.

Holding: The decision was reversed.

Reasoning: The Massachusetts high court upheld the use of a sting operation in which an underage buyer lied on an Internet wine purchase. The seller could not complain of being entrapped since it voluntarily sold to an underage buyer. The ABC commission had authority to suspend eVineyard’s license as it violated the law against the sale or delivery of alcohol to a person under age 21. The fact that a government agent solicited the sale was insufficient to show inducement for purposes of an entrapment defense. The law of entrapment focuses on whether the government induced the crime and if so, whether the defendant was predisposed to commit it. The sting operation was properly executed.

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