When Due Process Is Due
Although the Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division’s goal is voluntary compliance with alcohol laws, occasionally, an administrative proceeding is necessary. The following is an overview of the Division’s administrative hearings process.
Law, fire and health officials report liquor law violations by forwarding investigative reports to the Division. The reports are then forwarded to the Iowa Department of Justice for further action.
An assistant attorney general reviews the investigative reports and, where appropriate, initiates a contested court hearing by filing an administrative hearing complaint. County and city attorneys may also file complaints with the Division.
Contested case proceedings are heard by an administrative law judge (ALJ) from the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. Witnesses may be called, evidence introduced and arguments made at the hearing.
Following the hearing, the ALJ issues a proposed decision. The proposed decision becomes a final decision unless, within 30 days, a request for review is filed by either party with the Division administrator. The administrator, on his own, can review the matter as well.
The administrator reviews the proposed decision, along with the briefs, then issues the final agency action. The final agency action may affirm,reverse or modify the proposed decision. The administrator’s decision is the agency’s final action; the next step in the appeal process is district court.
Licensees who object to the final agency action may file an appeal with the district court for judicial review. Filing the petition does not automatically stay enforcement of the agency action, as the party must obtain a stay from the district court. The district court decision on the appeal is subject to review by the Iowa appellate courts, which issue the final resolution.
Rather than contesting allegations in an administrative hearing complaint, licensees may sign an acknowledgment waiving their right to a hearing. If the prosecuting attorney and the licensee come to an agreement acceptable to the administrator, the matter can be resolved short of hearing.