The Wrong Side of the Law

Despite all that has changed about moonshining in the last 200 years, one thing remains the same -- it is illegal. You might be wondering about homebrewed beer and amateur winemaking -- these activities were made legal in the 1970s, but they can only be done in small quantities (if you're supplying half the bars in the city with your "homebrew," the government is probably going to get suspicious). Homebrewing is a different activity from distilling alcohol, and distilling is definitely illegal in any amount. The reason distilling at home is illegal is because it's too easy to make a mistake and create a harmful product. Permits and licenses are required so that the government can make sure the alcohol being produced is safe. Plus, the Feds want to get their tax money.

However, moonshiners are rarely arrested or charged with making illegal liquor. The real charges come from tax evasion. A new federal push to crack down on moonshiners has also started using money laundering charges against moonshiners and their suppliers. A money-laundering conviction can lead to a prison term of 15 years, as opposed to five years for moonshining. Many moonshiners have their property seized by the government when they are caught, because tax evasion and moonshining convictions also result in heavy fines. The property is seized to make sure the fines can be paid.

For more information on moonshine and related topics, check out the links on the next page.