The following is a broad outline of Virginia ABC's hearings processes. For questions or additional information, contact the Hearings, Appeals and Judicial Services Division at (804) 213-4444.
The mission of the Hearings, Appeals and Judicial Services Division is to provide a fair and unbiased forum to resolve ABC alleged administrative violations.
1. The charge resolution process is initiated.
The process begins with a letter from Virginia ABC notifying the licensee or license applicant of pending charges or objections. Generally, this results from one of three situations:
Alleged violation(s) by a licensee of one or more ABC laws and/or regulations
Approval of a licensee's designated manager; or
- Approval of an area for exercise of the licensee privilege.
Other proceedings may be held to address contested applications for an ABC license or permit or to resolve a dispute between a wholesaler and manufacturer under the Beer or Wine Franchise Act.
2. The case is docketed.
A docket is the official schedule of hearings pending before an Administrative Law Judge. In the letter sent by Virginia ABC to initiate the charge resolution process, the licensee will be notified of the dates for the Pre-Hearing Conference and Formal Hearing (i.e., if neither the consent nor the negotiation processes resolves the matter) (3 VAC 5-10-140
are also provided online.
3. Consent settlement period begins.
In disciplinary cases, i.e., alleged licensee violations, the chief hearing officer proposes a consent settlement in writing to the licensee. The licensee can admit the alleged violation(s) and accept a monetary penalty and/or suspension of the ABC license. By accepting, the licensee waives the right to a Pre-Hearing Conference and Formal Hearing and to all appeals. If a consent settlement is not agreed upon, the matter will proceed to a Pre-Hearing Conference and a Formal Hearing.
If desired, the licensee may contact the Hearings Division at any time and proceed directly to the negotiation period.
4. Opportunity to Negotiate or Mediate.
Please contact the Virginia ABC’s Office of Legal Counsel if you would like the opportunity to negotiate or mediate the charge(s) prior to the scheduled Pre-Hearing Conference and Formal Hearing.
5. The Pre-Hearing Conference and Formal Hearing
The goal of the Pre-Hearing Conference is to prepare for the Formal Hearing. At the Pre-Hearing Conference, each party must identify any undisclosed witnesses and materials it intends to use at the Formal Hearing. The parties will also discuss stipulations, procedural and transcription issues, technology needs, translation services and make preliminary motions. The Administrative Law Judge assigned to the case conducts the Pre-Hearing Conference.
6. The Formal Hearing is held.
Hearings are usually held at one of Virginia ABC's regional offices or in meeting rooms or courtrooms in that region. These Formal Hearings are held before an Administrative Law Judge.
If a party cannot attend the Formal Hearing due to a scheduling conflict, the party must submit a written request for a continuance, which postpones the hearing to a later time. As a rule, continuances are granted only for substantiated, unforeseeable circumstances. Please note: Delays in hiring an attorney are not grounds for a continuance.
7. An initial decision is issued.
After the hearing, the hearing officer will mail the interested parties a written report detailing the decision. This is called an initial decision.
8. Appeals to the Board.
An applicant, licensee or other interested party can appeal the decision of the Administrative Law Judge to the Virginia ABC Board. Valid appeals must identify the mistake of law or fact that led to the alleged error. Please note that a $50 filing fee must accompany the notice of appeal. The appealing party will also have to pay a per page fee for transcript preparation.
9. An Appeal Hearing is scheduled and held.
Appeal hearings are held at the ABC Central Office in Hanover County. Appeal hearings are before a panel of the Virginia ABC Board.
10. A final decision is issued.
In its final decision, the Virginia ABC Board may affirm the initial decision, dismiss the charge(s) or objection(s), levy final penalties, or take other action as appropriate under the initial decision. The decisions of the Virginia ABC Board are the final action of the Authority, but may be appealed to the local circuit court and beyond that to the Court of Appeals of Virginia.
The Virginia Supreme Court has the discretion to accept or refuse any appeal from the Court of Appeals’ decision.