BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An app launched in early May which allows Louisiana residents to store a valid digital copy of their driver’s license on their smartphone can now be used for alcohol and tobacco purchases.
The new Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco (ATC) rule authorizes retailers and establishments to accept LA Wallet - sometimes called Louisiana digital driver’s license - when verifying age and identity, according to information provided by the Office of the Governor.
“Expanding LA Wallet shows us how we win when we embrace innovation and technology. Too often we find ourselves at the bottom of too many lists; this app has positioned LA as a leader in innovation,” said Rep. Ted James who created LA Wallet under Act 625. “Legislators from around the country have asked me about LA Wallet how their state can join us in technology leadership. Allowing LA Wallet for the use of alcohol and tobacco purchases is the first step into a more tech-friendly future, and it is my hope that Louisiana will take the initiative and become a leader in these efforts.”
Under the ATC’s rule, establishments must properly train all employees prior to accepting the digital driver’s license and retailers retain the right to request a physical form of identification at the time of purchase. Merchants that are mandated by the ATC to license scanners are still required to request physical identification.
“We have worked to make it possible for bars, restaurants and other alcohol and to retailers to accept this form of ID by adding digital ID training to our responsible vendors. Our goal is to allow for statewide use of this new technology and still ensure that retailers can verify identification to avoid alcohol sales to minors,” ATC Commissioner Juana Marine-Lombard said.
“This ruling gives retail stores, restaurants, and other vendors a clear understanding on the adoption of LA Wallet by ATC for age-restricted purchases,” OMV Commissioner Karen St. Germain said.
LA Wallet was designed by Louisiana State Police (LSP), the Department of Public Safety (DPS), and the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV). The developer, Envoc, is a Louisiana-based firm. The entire development team was made up of graduates of Louisiana universities. The app is the first of its kind to be launched in the country.
“Louisiana and LA Wallet are continuing to lead the nation in the digital identification space. With the ATC’s new guidelines, we are making state government more efficient and effective for our citizens while standing by our commitment to reduce underage drinking and falsified credentials cases,” Gov. Edwards said. “LA Wallet is once again making history, and I look forward to seeing the next innovative way it will improve the lives of Louisianans.”
Using LA Wallet a user’s license will always stay up to date. If a driver updates their address, for instance, the app will notify them and they will not need to purchase a new digital license. They will simply need to unlink and relink their license.
Also among the benefits of using LA Wallet is its usefulness during police interactions. State law prohibits cops from issuing a ticket during traffic stops or checkpoints to anyone who presents a digital license in lieu of a physical copy. However, that doesn’t mean Louisiana drivers should toss their physical licenses just yet. Drivers, at least for now, must still carry a hard copy. Though state police is already on board with adopting the digital license as a valid ID, other involved state agencies are still working to adopt the digital system. A digital license also won’t work when it comes to boarding an aircraft.
LA Wallet is free to download, but there is a $5.99 charge to activate a driver’s license or ID to be legally accepted. The digital license will be valid for the duration of the driver’s license. Once a driver’s physical license expires, they will need to renew their license with the OMV, then purchase a new digital license through the app. LA Wallet is the only form of electronic identification recognized and accepted in the state.