Police crack down on liquor store patrons

Three minors were cited for underage drinking outside Broadway Liquor on Friday.
Three minors were cited for underage drinking outside Broadway Liquor on Friday. Photo by Colin Ross.

On Halloween night, a Trumbull sophomore went to Zachary’s Package Store on Howe Street and used a fake ID to purchase alcohol. Outside the store, a cop stopped him, checked his Yale ID, charged him with underage possession and forced him to pour out his alcohol.

“I was mad because there was a lot of it,” said the student, who asked not to be named because he was breaking the law.

Police, pictured here on patrol last week, have started searching students as they leave liquor stores and asking them to show ID.
Police, pictured here on patrol last week, have started searching students as they leave liquor stores and asking them to show ID.

The number of students hospitalized for drugs and alcohol is on track to double this semester, Council of Masters Chair Jonathan Holloway said in an e-mail to Calhoun students. And Yale Police officers have cracked down, issuing citations to three minors near Broadway Liquor on Friday alone, according to the department’s crime log. Before Halloween weekend, when four minors were cited for consuming liquor, Yale Police only issued two underage drinking citations this semester, both in September. Twenty-four students interviewed over the weekend said they have noticed alcohol enforcement has suddenly become stricter, with police conducting searches outside liquor stores.

Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith, who is in charge of campus security, confirmed that the YPD has met with local businesses and that police step up enforcement in years when the Harvard-Yale football game is in New Haven.

“The Yale Police have often visited local establishments to remind them that the majority of Yale undergraduates are under the age of 21 and so cannot legally purchase alcohol,” Highsmith said in an e-mail.

Dean of Yale College Mary Miller said Sunday night she had not heard of the recent uptick in police activity, and residential college masters also said they are not connected to the policy. Holloway said that, though the council will be discussing the state of alcohol and drug use on campus in a meeting this coming Friday, the masters have not influenced recent YPD actions.

Silliman Master Judith Krauss added that the council traditionally does not intervene in police matters.

Of 46 students interviewed, 24 said they had experienced or heard of police searches for alcohol and identification. Students recounted stories of officers approaching them because they were near a liquor store or were carrying large bags.

Christine Chan ’10, who is over 21, said a police car “swerved” in front of her and her companions as they left Broadway Liquor last Saturday. She said the officer examined the students’ IDs for more than two minutes. Brendan Ross ’13 said officers gave some of his underage friends citations and $100 fines, confiscating their liquor after they had left the same business.

Three students interviewed said this police activity was out of the ordinary around Yale’s campus, and many expressed anger at the increased number and aggressiveness of the searches.

But not all students agreed. Chan said she had appreciated the police who questioned her for “doing their job.”

While police tactics may prompt strong reactions from students, New Haven-based defense lawyer William Dow III ’63 said they are perfectly legal.

“If the police has reasonable suspicion of illegal activities, they have the right to stop and inquire,” he said.

Some underage students who were caught carrying alcohol said police officers only made them place the alcohol on the ground until they could contact an of-age friend to come and carry it the rest of the way.

Though searches have become more frequent, some students said consequences for possessing alcohol were not a significant obstacle to drinking.

“It’s a drinking problem, not really a fake ID problem. If you want alcohol, you can get it,” Jackie Parilla ’12 said. “Access to alcohol doesn’t really depend on whether or not you have a fake.”

A 2006 Connecticut statute made it illegal for a person of legal drinking age to allow underage drinking.

Jordi Gasso, Carol Hsin and Baobao Zhang contributed reporting.


  • who?

    Is this article about Yale PD or NHPD?

  • student

    with pedestrians constantly being mowed down by speeding traffic on all the streets around campus… don’t the cops have something better to do?

  • Veritas

    Sure, it’s legal to stop and inquire. It’s legal for an officer to do that even if there’s no suspicion of illegal activity. But is it legal for an officer to search students’ bags or compel them to present ID? I’m not so sure.

  • 4th Amendment

    This case is interesting – someone should contact Akhil Amar and do a constitutional implications follow up. I’m obviously no expert in con law, but I think police searching a student’s bag or backpack for alcohol, and police asking to see the ID of someone purchasing or holding alcohol are slightly different issues.

    In the first case, fourth amendment rights apply to “searches” specifically defined as impeding a person’s “reasonable expectation of privacy”. This involves the notion of “in plain view” – whether or not a person undertook reasonable efforts to conceal something from a casual observer, and whether society at large would deem a person’s expectation of privacy to be reasonable. If it’s plain that a person did not keep the evidence in a private place, then no search is required to uncover the evidence. So if a student was merely near a liquor store, with alcohol in a bag or backpack, I’d say that fulfilled a reasonable expectation of privacy, and laws relating to searches would apply.

    In the case of a police officer seeing a student buying or carrying alcohol out in the open, one could argue that he or she could demand to see an ID because the Court has approved routine warrantless searches “where there is probable cause to believe that a criminal offense has been or is being committed.” I think the legality in this case is incumbent on how reasonable it is for probable cause/reasonable suspicion to be based on the visual estimation of someone’s age.
    I’m sure there’s legal precedent on this somewhere….

    Anyway, I’m all for the respect of fourth amendment rights, but people buying alcohol with fake IDs might want to put away their righteous irritation – they are committing a crime after all. This is especially true since breaking the law here just means you have to pour out your ill-gotten spirits or find an over-21 friend to carry it home for you. In a lot of college towns the police aren’t so lenient on this issue.

  • happy to be here

    I am astounded that so many of my peers, who want to demonstrate how ready they are to be independent from the supervision living with their parents brings….. choose to drink to excess the first chance they get. Double the number of kids needing to be brought to the hospital? What are you demonstrating, other than your very poor judgment? Yes, you can be arrested…. but you can also end up dead. And you got into Yale? Too bad there isn’t an SAT about smart choices. Personally, I don’t plan to waste this brief but wonderful four year opportunity.

  • Lux

    “Doing their job” means enforcing what everyone agrees to be bad public policy. I’d rather not.


    When the police tells you to present ID and open your bag, say you will not be subject to an unwarranted search. You don’t need to prove your age to a cop.

  • KT ’09

    You are required by law to present ID when an officer asks you to (for the current precedent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiibel_v._Sixth_Judicial_District_Court_of_Nevada). If there is reasonable suspicion that the law has been broken, you may be asked to present ID (looking under 21 and walking out of a liquor store qualifies). If your ID shows that you are 21 and there is reasonable suspicion based on you leaving the liquor store, the police are allowed to search your person and possessions.

    I disagree with the police tactics, since students are going to drink regardless, but the police are acting within the bounds of the law at this time.

  • hey…

    You kids are missing the point. This is about health and safety….. your own.

  • Goldie ’08

    Drinking related hospitalizations have doubled over last year? I think this trend is going to continue and the police should be commended.

    That being said, I certainly support dialogue around lowering the drinking age and fostering a safer culture related to alcolhol. Also, binge drinking is really uncool.

  • Y’13

    Having the drinking age be 21 is absolutely ridiculous. We are basically the only country to have such a high drinking age, and we’re also one of the only places to have issues with underage drinking. The drinking age should be 18 and I assure you that the number of hospitalizations will go down. When you give 18+ year olds the option to drink whenever they want, binge drinking will not be a problem and things will be fine.

    Leave it to the U.S. to make complicated, unnecessary policy.

  • annoyed

    When I was a freshman the YPD was there to protect you, now they’ve turned themselves into the enemy. All they will do is drive drinking underground where it is unregulated and unsafe.

  • @Y’13

    By your logic, seniors who are 21 don’t binge drink. That is false.

  • Captain Mo.

    “A 2006 Connecticut statute made it illegal for a person of legal drinking age to allow underage drinking.”

    But do we have a prison large enough to fit the entirety of the Yale administration?

  • @Y’13

    But then what about binge drinking among 15-17 year olds? It becomes (nearly) an analogous situation where they can easily get alcohol and it’s illegal for them. High school binge drinking would skyrocket.

    And with more people who can legally drink (ie an increased number of people who drink in total) how can you say that hospitalizations and drinking related problems will decrease? No one (especially not here) throws back shots and gets dangerously drunk because they’re afraid of getting caught; they would do the same thing even if it were legal. Maybe a small percentage would learn to drink responsibly, but many more (those that the law stops, if temporarily, now) would begin drinking earlier and contribute their poor alcohol-related decisions to the hospitalization count.

    tl;dr More people drinking is correlated with more people hurt from drinking.

  • Parent

    Isn’t Yale violating the law regarding “hosting” underage drinking, and possibly other laws (when JE charges $ for “liquor treat”)? [Where I live the adult who hosts an underage drinking party has committed a crime and may be liable for injuries caused by the partiers.] I hope it doesn’t take a threat of prosecution to get the campus administration to show some leadership.

    I’m not expecting abstinence, but some oversight would encourage restraint. A social cocktail is one thing, but when a kid goes to the hospital with alcohol poisoning, he needs some counseling — and when it happens in large numbers, you’ve got a problem with the prevalent culture.

  • Y’13

    @ #13: Seniors who are 21 binge drink because they have already built up the habit of doing so. The whole point of binge drinking is to get as drunk as possible as quickly as possible because you won’t have a chance to drink afterwards. If you lower the drinking age, kids ideally won’t acquire the habit. To be honest, I don’t think that this is totally feasible now-a-days since the law’s damage has already been done. But, leaving the drinking age at 21 isn’t helping.

    @#15: Am I the only one that thinks that there is a difference between 21 year olds giving 18 year olds alcohol and 18 year olds giving 15 year olds drinks? If I had the chance, I would NEVER give a 15 year old alcohol. I also think it would be a lot more difficult for 15 year olds to get alcohol than it is for 18 year olds now.

  • Veritas @ KT’09

    Connecticut does not have a stop-and-identify statue.


  • Live and Learn

    I think that at the age of 18 people need to grow up and learn to be responsible for themselves. No one is forcing anyone to binge drink here – not your group of friends, not the people who throw parties, not the prevalent culture. Yale students aren’t sheep – they make their own good or bad decisions, and I think we should be cool with that. If someone chooses to drink irresponsibly and land themselves in the hospital then lesson learned. We need to stop relying on the law to give people common sense – 15 drinks = alcohol poisoning…shocker. As long as they don’t get into a car and endanger someone else, which most Yale students don’t do, I say let them learn from their own mistakes.

  • CC12

    It’s easy to argue for lowering the drinking age at a campus where almost none of the undergrads has access to a car, but this is much different than the situation for the vast majority of people 18-21 in this country (both at other universities and for people not going to college). If we lowered the drinking age, even if alcohol-poisoning deaths decreased slightly, there would be so many more deaths from drunk driving that there would be net harm done to society. While some people will go out of their way to skirt drinking laws, making something illegal does make it more difficult to do and at least reduces the number of people doing it, so I don’t think this is “bad public policy” (this is not a point on which “everyone agrees”). And it wouldn’t be fair to lower the drinking age for Yale students while keeping it at 21 for everyone else.

  • BR’10

    Hum, it’s probably Rossett that’ CC’12…what a scrooge.

    Anyway, the US has amongst the world’s most unhealthy drinking culture and it’s largely due to the mythical ‘drinking is an adult thing at 21′ thing.

    Really, if individuals who would begin drinking at 18, when they first enter a social atmosphere that is peer-based in its consistency, they’d do their drinking in pubs or bars, rather than in sketchy basements.

  • @ #18


    Connecticut does not have a so-called “stop and identify” statute that would permit an officer to ask for or require a suspect to disclose his identity, therefore, questions remained as to Connecticut officers’ authority to make an arrest based a suspect’s failure to comply.

    On December 22, 2006, in State v. Aloi, — A.2d —-, 2007 WL 1858, Conn., January 02, 2007 (No. 17350.) the Connecticut Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, reversed an Appellate Court ruling and reinstated the conviction of Paul Aloi for interfering with a police officer in 2002 when he refused to provide identification.

    Police approached, advised Aloi of the complaint against him, and requested that he produce identification. Aloi did not immediately hand over his identification, instead stating that he did not need to comply, that he was on public property and that “this isn’t Russia, I’m not showing you any [identification]…” Subsequently, he was arrested and found guilty of several charges, including interfering with a police officer in violation of §53a-167a.

    The Court examined whether refusing to provide identification to a police officer who is investigating possible criminal activity pursuant to a Terry stop was permissible. It found that “because a refusal to provide identification in connection with a Terry stop may hamper or impede a police investigation into apparent criminal activity, we see no reason why such conduct would be categorically excluded under the expansive language of § 53a-167a.” Also, “[a]lthough each case must be decided on its own particular facts, as a general matter, a suspect’s refusal to comply with a lawful police command to provide identification following a Terry stop is likely to impede or delay the progress of the police investigation, even when that refusal is peaceable.”

    Yeah, you still have to show ID when the cops ask.

  • Y?

    It might sound really crazy that the rate of students going to DHS for alcohol abuse has doubled so far this year, but when you consider that we are talking about very small proportions and very small time frames, hysteria is a little unwarranted. Little percentage changes do not indicate drastic shifts in drinking culture at Yale. Such a policy is a knee-jerk reaction to an unflattering framing of a statistical anomaly.

    This policy does nothing but cost students money. The convicted students lose fake IDs and have to pay fines, and are down $200-$250. This does not decrease the amount of alcohol on campus to a significant extent. Most people still get away with buying illegally, upperclassmen can still buy for those not yet of age, and fraternities and a capella groups still have a ton of cheap alcohol. Instead, random students who have paid for fakes and are providing for a group (which, I think it’s safe to assume, is almost always the case) can be unlucky and suffer a financial burden. This is hardly a well thought-out policy. Some people just get screwed over sometimes.

    This is not to say that Yale and Yale students do not have improvements to make in the school’s alcohol and drug culture. The presence of grain alcohol seems to always lead to unintentional blackout among partygoers, and I think a crackdown on Everclear is a concession that students would be willing to make to work towards a smarter alcohol policy.

    But my particular ideas are kind of besides the point. Any kind of reform to alcohol/drug policy should be inclusive of all students, rather than pick out a few unlucky ones.

    And by the way, I’ll still be drinking responsibly to blow off steam on the weekends.

  • Veritas @ #22

    What constitutes a lawful Terry stop? Is carrying opaque plastic bags and looking in your twenties really enough cause to be stopped? In the case you cited, there was a specific complaint against Aloi. Not quite the same thing.

  • Querty

    People are overlooking the fact that there are many countries with MUCH worse drinking cultures with lower drinking ages, for example he United Kingdom, Ireland and Russia.
    Look at this article for example:

    While I’m all for reforming our alcohol laws, I’m not so naive as to think that it will magically solve binge drinking.

  • MC09

    The YPD better be careful about this. My friend (albeit in MA) is about to get about $20,000 from the Amherst police department for a similar stop (he was over 21). The officer and chain of command could in theory be held personally liable, although the union insurance generally picks up the cost. The number of students here with lawyer parents is astounding – and honestly, I hope the YPD gets dragged into a multi-year case.