California is one of the few states in the US who bravely raised the age of restriction for legally recognized tobacco purchasing. In the state, to be able to purchase tobacco products like cigarettes, one has to be twenty-one (21) years of age. Anything lower than that is a criminal offense under PC 308.
California Penal Code PC 308 is the statute that criminalizes the act of selling cigarettes to minors under the California legal smoking age. It states that every person, firm, or corporation that knowingly or under circumstances in which it knows, or should otherwise have grounds for knowledge, sells, gives, or in any way furnishes to another person who is under 21 years of age any tobacco, cigarette, or cigarette papers, or blunt wraps, or any other preparation of tobacco, or any other instrument or paraphernalia that is designed for the smoking or ingestion of tobacco, tobacco products, or any controlled substance, is subject to either a criminal action for a misdemeanor or a civil action brought by a city attorney, a county counsel, or a district attorney, punishable by a fine of two hundred dollars ($200) for the first offense, five hundred dollars ($500) for the second offense, and one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the third offense.
Also, every person, firm, or corporation that sells, or deals in tobacco or any preparation thereof, shall post conspicuously and keep so posted in his, her, or their place of business at each point of purchase the notice required pursuant to the Business and Professions Code 22952b, and any person failing to do so shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of fifty dollars ($50) for the first offense, one hundred dollars ($100) for the second offense, two hundred fifty dollars ($250) for the third offense, and five hundred dollars ($500) for the fourth offense and each subsequent violation of this provision, or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding 30 days.
For purposes of determining the liability of persons, firms, or corporations controlling franchises or business operations in multiple locations for the second and subsequent violations of this section, each individual franchise or business location shall be deemed a separate entity.
It is the Legislature's intent to regulate the subject matter of this section. As a result, a city, county, or city and county shall not adopt any ordinance or regulation inconsistent with this section.
For purposes of this section, “smoking” has the same meaning as in the Business and Professions Code BPC 22950.5c.
For purposes of this section, “tobacco products” means a product or device as defined in the Business and Professions Code BPC 22950.5d.
Penalties for selling cigarettes to a minor
Selling cigarettes or any tobacco product to a minor is a California misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a criminal offense more serious compared to an infraction but less severe as opposed to a felony. Under PC 308, the violation is punishable by:
- A fine of two hundred dollars ($200) for the first (1st) offense, five hundred dollars ($500) for the second (2nd), and one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the third (3rd) offense.
This case can also lead to a civil or class action lawsuit.
Fortunately for people or businesses falsely accused of selling cigarettes to minors, certain conditions can be used to challenge the allegations. Some of those are:
- The customer falsified his/her age, or
- No transaction occurred between the business and the customer.
Age falsification – The defendant can use the defense that the transaction was done under the impression that the customer was of legal tobacco purchasing age. To look like he/she is of legal purchasing age, he/she might have used fake IDs or falsified his/her identification.
No transaction – The defendant can use the defense that the transaction was not done in his/her business establishment. He/she can claim that no tobacco rules were violated because they did not provide service to anyone who is not of legal purchasing age.
To protect businesses from being entangled with legal disputes like false accusations, when facing allegations of providing service to people who are not qualified to avail said services, it would benefit them if they employ the aid of our credible California defense lawyers.
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