A troubling trend is emerging in West Virginia. According to my own experience, and to those of some of my colleagues, State agencies, such as ABC (alcohol beverage control commission) are beginning to become actively involved in criminal cases, such as by trying to assist law enforcement in obtaining statements from suspects or defendants.
For instance, if someone who has an alcohol license is charged with a crime, they will suspend the alcohol license in “the interest of public safety.” Then, to get it back, they request a statement of why you are innocent of the charges. Undoubtedly that statement would end up right in the prosecutor’s file and would be used against you at trial. And if you don’t give the statement, your license remains suspended and you lose the income with which you were depending on to pay for your defense. Many times, the crime charged doesn’t have anything to do with selling alcohol or actual safety of the general public, they are just hassling you. And they can. Your only recourse is to request a hearing before the ABC Commissioner, and then to appeal that decision to the Kanawha County Circuit Court, and then to the WV Supreme Court of Appeals. By the time an arbitrary decision is overturned, you have gone out of business.
Something else they have been doing: if someone is charged with a crime involving consuming alcohol – for instance DUI, they will request the persons help in obtaining information on the establishment where the alcohol was bought or consumed. They trick you into believing that by helping them find out information about this establishment, that it will help your case, or that it will remain confidential. In reality, the statement gets forwarded to the investigating officer or prosecutor that same day.
Moral of the story? If you have been charged with a crime, or even investigated regarding a crime, keep you mouth shut and call a lawyer.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.