The Legal Division processes administrative violations involving permittees, interprets statutes and rules, and advises the Commission on legal issues. The attorneys also represent the Commission in contested cases before the Office of Administrative Hearings.
When the Legal Division receives a violation report from a law enforcement agency (see Enforcement of ABC Laws), the attorneys evaluate whether the facts provide sufficient evidence of a violation of ABC laws or rules. If so, the Legal Division will send a “Notice of Alleged Violation” to the ABC permittee. This letter will contain a short statement of the facts alleged with reference to the statutes or rules involved. The notice may contain a “Proposed Stipulation and Offer in Compromise.” This is a proposed settlement with penalties based on general guidelines established by the Commission. There may be an increase or decrease in the standard penalty based on who committed the offense, whether there have been prior violations, how long the permits have been in place, and other facts particular to the situation.
Once a permittee receives a “Notice of Alleged Violation,” the permittee has two choices. (1) The permittee can sign the “Proposed Stipulation and Offer in Compromise” and return it to the Legal Division. The case will then be placed on an agenda for an ABC Commission Meeting as stated in the “Notice of Alleged Violation.” The settlement is not final until the Commission ratifies it at one of its monthly meetings. (2) If a permittee indicates a desire for a hearing, or does not respond to the “Notice of Alleged Violation,” the Legal Division will file a petition with the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). OAH will then assign an Administrative Law Judge who will hear the case to determine whether a violation of ABC laws or rules occurred, and if so, what the penalty will be assessed. Contested case procedures are governed by Chapter 150B of the General Statutes and the rules of the Office of Administrative Hearings. The Agenda for the upcoming Commission Meeting and a Summary of past Commission Meetings can be viewed under Statutes and Legal Reports.