No one can be convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for an act he did not commit, did not have knowledge of, or give expressed or implied consent to the commission thereof.
On March 29, 1985, in the course of an undercover operation, two investigators for the City of Hopkins entered Lindee's Restaurant, with a 17-year-old woman. All three ordered alcoholic beverages. The minor had never been in Lindee's before, and the waitress did not ask the minor her age or request identification. When the waitress returned with their orders, the minor paid for all the drinks. After confirming that the drink contained alcohol, the officers arrested the waitress for serving intoxicating liquor to a minor in violation of Minn. Stat. § 340.73 (1984). The owner of Lindee's, defendant George Joseph Guminga, was subsequently charged with violation of section 340.73 pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 340.941 (1984), which imposes vicarious criminal liability on an employer whose employee serves intoxicating liquor to a minor. Guminga moved to dismiss the charges on the ground that section 340.941 violates the due process clauses of the federal and state constitutions.
Did the vicarious liability statute, which imposes automatic vicarious liability on employers for their employees’ actions, violate the due process clause?
The court found that criminal penalties based on vicarious liability under the statute violated due process. The court noted that defendant's liberty and reputation were in jeopardy for an offense he did not commit or ratify, and that such an intrusion was unnecessary when the imposition of civil fines or the suspension of licenses would just as effectively protect the public interest in question.