Matthew Mann
September 13, 2007 | Compliance | Matthew Mann

Two Thoughts on Indiana

The U.S. District court decision striking down portions of Indiana’s ridiculous and onerous direct shipping statute was truly a victory for wineries and the wine drinking public. Not because it opened the state to direct shipping by a removing discriminatory wholesaler restriction and the flat-out stupid “face-to-face” requirement, because it didn’t really open the state. It’s still not practical to ship to Indiana because the court didn’t address the equally restrictive and stupid customer aggregate limit of 24 cases per year to any one consumer from all wineries. No, the decision was important because the Judge ruled not on some technical flaw in how the statute was written, but rather on a more substantial Constitutional basis reiterating and reinforcing the Commerce Clause and freedom of trade. Constitutional rulings always go more to the core of an issue and make it much more difficult for a legislature to overcome the ruling with revised statutory language. Additionally, it makes for much stronger precedent for other courts to cite as similar cases come to them in other jurisdictions.

On another note, shortly after the decision, I was hit with the haunting question that probably inhabits the minds of most wineries shipping direct but only gets spoken aloud in hushed tones. I know I’ve thought it as I boxed and double-boxed that package of wine going to some forbidden state. You all know what it is—”who’s really watching?” Come on, surely the state has any number of other issues pressing on them eating up their time and resources. They can’t possibly track all the packages shipped by all the wineries and verify that I broke some esoteric rule like shipping more than 2 cases to a customer in a month. Can they? I mean seriously, how would Indiana know I’m shipping the 25th case to an Indiana wine connoisseur and breaking the law unknowingly? Well, they don’t, at least not by themselves. But they do have help, albeit probably reluctant help, by the common carriers bringing the wine into the state. Keep in mind, for all of those nasty reports you file each month with all of those state agencies, the carriers have reports to file as well. Those direct shipper laws weren’t written just so legislators could have something to do. They are there to help the state agencies track your shipments…and they use the carriers to do so. Remember, most state’s require carriers to be licensed to deliver wine in the state and if the carriers don’t do the necessary reporting, those licenses could get pulled. So the next time you are thinking “who’s watching?”, think again, “they are”!


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