ALE shuts down county still

Published 8:33 pm Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It may have been forged in olden times, but the law still stands: making moonshine is illegal in North Carolina.
On Friday, retired water systems manager for Beaufort County, Benson Curtis Jett Sr., of N.C. Highway 32 in Pinetown, was charged by Alcohol Law Enforcement agents with the manufacture of nontax-paid spirituous liquor, possession of said liquor and possession of manufacturing equipment, according to Special Agent Diane Chapin, of ALE’s District II.
Jett retired from the county in September, according to County Manager Randell Woodruff.
Chapin said approximately 36.75 liters, or 25 bottles, of clear liquor were seized from Jett by ALE officers.
While the misdemeanor charges are usually resolved with a paid fine, Chapin said that if a manufacturer is cited a second time for the same crime, the result is felony charges.
“There are few felonies in ALE law and that is one of them,” Chapin said, adding that any conveyance used to transport moonshine is subject to seizure.
While it is legal in North Carolina to make beer and wine for personal consumption, liquor is off limits. The laws stem from the prohibition era — “the good old racing days,” Chapin said — and originated from concerns the state was missing out on revenue and that stills were not made with quality materials. Case in point: between the 1930s and 1960s, some moonshine manufacturers made their product in stills constructed with lead solder and people died from drinking the lead-poisoned alcohol.
Though the dangers of ingesting lead are well known now, Chapin cautions that homemade liquor may not be made in the cleanest of environments.
“It can be dangerous to consume considering the facilities where it’s being made are not regulated by the health department,” Chapin explained.
Chapin said in the nine-county District II (Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Greene, Jones, Lenoir, Pamlico, Pitt and Wilson counties), ALE officers see a few cases of moonshiners a year, though not as many as other districts.