Convictions and Character: Getting Qualified for an Alcoholic Beverage License

 

Under Florida law, licenses to sell alcoholic beverages may only be issued to individuals or corporations who have good moral character. The way that the state determines "good moral character" can present a challenge for some who are exploring opportunities in the industry. It is important to know whether you and your business partners qualify before you make a substantial investment in a business that depends on the sale of alcohol. This article provides a summary of the laws and regulations regarding moral character and criminal history.

Criminal History

Each individual who is directly connected to the business (e.g., owners, partners, members, officers, and individuals directly receiving financial proceeds) is required to submit their fingerprints for a Level II background check. A license will not be issued to those who have been: 

  • Convicted of any offense against any state or federal beverage laws within the past 5 years,

  • Convicted of soliciting prostitution, pandering, letting premises for prostitution, or keeping a disorderly place within the past 5 years,

  • Convicted of any criminal violation of the Florida Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act or any other state or federal drug law within the past 5 years, or

  • Convicted of any state or federal felony within the past 15 years.

In addition, a license can be denied if the person or company abandoned their license or had it revoked after receiving written notice that revocation or suspension proceedings were or would be brought against the license. This applies to corporations who have an officer, director, or interested party whose license has been revoked (or abandoned under the circumstances described above) and vice versa.

An affected corporation can overcome this impairment by demonstrating (at a public hearing) that it has: 

  • Terminated its relationship with any director, officer, employee or controlling shareholder whose actions directly contributed to the conviction of the corporation.

  • Received full pardon or restoration of civil rights pursuant to state law with respect to any conviction of a violation of law. 

Moral Character

The Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco's regulations state that  a person of “good moral character” has the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, follows the rules of right conduct, and acts in a manner that demonstrates the qualities of trust and confidence.

Helpfully, the state lists a number of factors that will disqualify an applicant:

  • Being penalized for a criminal act in this country (or a foreign country) that is punishable by imprisonment for 1 year or more, when the act is related to alcoholic beverages, failure to pay taxes, unlawful drugs or controlled substances, prostitution, or injuring another person within the last 15 years;

  • Committing two or more crimes in this country or a foreign country that are punishable by imprisonment for 1 year or more within the last 5 years;

  • Committing an unlawful lewd, lascivious, or indecent assault or act upon or in the presence of a person under the age of 16 within the last 5 years;

  • Having a delinquent child support obligation which has resulted in issuance of a court order for collection within the last 5 years;

  • Committing two or more acts of prostitution or lewdness within the last 5 years;

  • Committing an act of unlawful battery within the last 5 years;

  • Committing an act of selling, delivering, giving, or possession with the intent to sell, give, or deliver unlawful controlled substances or drugs within the last 5 years;

  • Committing two or more acts in violation of alcoholic beverage laws within the last 5 years;

  • Committing perjury or giving false information under oath to a government agency or court within the last 5 years;

  • Engaging in a pattern of fraud as defined in section 409.327 of the Florida Statutes within the last 5 years; or

  • Owning or managing a business whose alcoholic beverage license or permit was revoked for a violation of a criminal law that is punishable by imprisonment more than 1 year or four violations of the same law during the preceding 3 years.

However, it is possible to mitigate your a negative piece of your record. The Division will consider an affidavit that explains the circumstances of the past conduct and presents evidence of the applicant's ability to distinguish between right and wrong and character to observe the difference. Character references from people who have personal knowledge of the applicant’s character may be considered, though a spouse, son, daughter, or employee cannot vouch. Finally, the Division will consider other evidence of the applicant's good citizenship and positive community involvement.


Special thanks to Tawanna Franklin for her work on this piece. Please note that this page is made available by the law firm for educational purposes only, and that it is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Visiting this page does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and the firm.