Cody Stokes, a 17-year-old Carson High School senior, knows firsthand the difficulties of buying alcohol under age.
Not because he was caught purchasing beer, but because he caught someone willing to sell it during a recent sting in Reno.
"I obviously learned it wasn't that easy to buy alcohol under-age," he said. "But that depends on where you're at and that's a good lesson or bad lesson depending on how you look at it."
Stokes, along with Carson High School students Sarah Stadler, Michael Moltz and Tyler Hughes, were chosen to participate in Mothers Against Drunk Driving's recent nationwide "Night of Compliance."
"It was different," he said. "I've never done anything like that. It was something interesting to do. I had a hard time understanding how (it worked) because I was technically doing something illegal, but it was legal."
The nationwide sting, July 15, commemorated the 21st anniversary of the 21-minimum age drinking law, passed July 17, 1984, by then-President Ronald Reagan. In all, the four students visited 49 Reno establishments.
Six clerks were issued citations - a $450 fine, for selling to minors. Eighty-eight percent of the stores complied with the law.
"I think that's a pretty good rate," said Laurel Stadler, Sarah's mother and president of Lyon County MADD. "We were actually fairly pleased with that. But it does show there was room for improvement because we were looking for 100 percent compliance."
In all, Stokes went into 11 of the 49 stores. First, he and an undercover cop would pull up to a pre-picked establishment.
Stokes would enter the store, select some beer, and walk to the register. The cop would enter the store about 30 seconds later and get in line behind Stokes in case a confrontation arose about the alcohol.
"For the most part, all of them until the last few, were checking IDs," Stokes said. "All of them except the one I bought in were pretty consistently checking me and making sure I was 21."
The undercover cop did help out at one point: when a clerk couldn't read Stokes' date of birth on his driver's license and asked the cop what it said.
Only one clerk sold Stokes a case of beer and she didn't even ask to see his license, Stokes said. He left the store and let the undercover cop serve the citation.
"She just didn't look like she was having a good day to begin with," he said. "I kinda felt bad for her. She didn't look like she needed it."
Checks nationwide occurred in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Boston, Clarksville, Tenn., Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fairfax County, Va., Honolulu, Jacksonville, Lexington, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Nashville, Nassau County, Fla., Reno, Sacramento, San Angelo, Texas, Seattle, Springfield, Ill., and Springfield, Mo.
Of those, Seattle, had the lowest compliance rate of 57 percent, with nine out of 21 establishment selling alcohol to minors.
Honolulu had perfect compliance with none of the 24 locations selling alcohol to minors.
The overall compliance rate was 82 percent, meaning of the 867 businesses visited, 153 sold alcohol to minors.
MADD, founded in 1980, has a mission to stop drunken-driving, to support victims of such crimes and to prevent underage drinking, which Stokes sees as a problem at Carson High School.
"I think a lot of it does go on because there's not a whole lot for teens to do in Carson," he said. "Everything is up in Reno."
Information on MADD can be found at www.madd.org or by calling -1-800-GET-MADD. For information on the nationwide compliance sting, see www.madd.org/21 on the Internet.
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at email@example.com or 881-1219.