The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," runs in the Champaign News Gazette.
Why are some businesses able to ship alcohol to Illinois, while others won’t? One on-line seller would ship hard liquor to Indiana, but not to Illinois. Why the differences?
Illinois permits out-of-state wineries to ship to Illinois consumers. It prohibits shipping beer or spirits into Illinois. So, you can only get wine shipments, from an out-of-state winery.
The rarely-used 21st Amendment actually applies here. In 1933, it repealed the 18th Amendment, which in 1920 had prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” within the US.
While legalizing alcohol again, the 21st Amendment specifically permitted states to regulate the transportation of alcohol. Section 2 provides: “The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.”
So, according to the 21st Amendment, any transportation or importation of alcohol into Illinois must comply with Illinois law.
In 2005, the US Supreme Court said that if in-state wineries could sell directly to consumers, then out-of-state wineries must also be allowed to. State laws to the contrary were unconstitutional restrictions on interstate commerce.
In response to this case, Illinois created a “winery shipper’s license.” An out-of-state winery with that Illinois license “may ship, for personal use and not for resale, not more than 12 cases of wine per year to any resident of this State who is 21 years of age or older.” The container must say “CONTAINS ALCOHOL,” and it must be signed for by someone who’s at least 21.
That’s why only wine can be shipped into Illinois. And only from wineries—not from just any retailer or online liquor store.
Indiana restricts alcohol shipments pretty much the same say, so shipping anything but wine into Indiana would appear to be illegal.
A law that just went into effect January 1 emphasizes that only wine—not beer or hard liquor—can be shipped into Illinois. That law says it’s designed “to carefully limit direct shipment sales of wine produced by makers of wine and to continue to prohibit such direct shipment sales for spirits and beer.”
This new law authorizes the Liquor Control Commission to send cease-and-desist orders to any out-of-state shippers violating Illinois law. If the shippers keep shipping, they could be prosecuted for the illegal sale of alcohol, a Class 4 felony.
Advocates for the new law say it reduces sales to minors, and untaxed sales by “bootleggers.” Critics say it just keeps out competition.
As for bootlegging, if you “import” alcohol into Illinois for personal consumption, state regulations allow only 1 gallon a year. With express permission from the Liquor Control Commission—but not a full-blown license—you can bring in an annual maximum of 12 bottles of wine. Beyond those limits, the state wants the revenue from liquor taxes.
Finally, it’s illegal to send any alcohol through the US Mail. UPS delivers for licensed wine shippers. FedEx delivers wine—and possibly more—if the shipper jumps through their hoops.