Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners, it’s not difficult to guess what it’s about. The show features a motley cast of characters who use their know-how and ingenuity to produce — you guessed it — moonshine! And, as you may or may not remember from your middle school history class, moonshine is illegal.
According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, moonshiners could face federal charges and face up to five years in prison for practicing their craft (or even just possessing an unregistered still). But the stars of Moonshiners like Mark and Digger participate in a television show that broadcasts their illegal activities for all the world to see — so how do they not get in trouble with the law?
So, is 'Moonshiners' fake?
As it turns out, there may be a little bit of television magic going on behind the scenes of Moonshiners. (You may want to stop reading here if you want to continue believing that everything you see on the show is 100 percent true!).
Back in 2011, Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control spokeswoman Kathleen Shaw revealed a bit about the true nature of the show. Viewers had (understandably) expressed concerns that the local government was allowing illegal activity to take place in order to make a television show. But that may not actually be the case. “If illegal activity was actually taking place, the Virginia ABC Bureau of Law Enforcement would have taken action,” Kathleen said in an email to the Associated Press.
In fact, Moonshiners is not strictly a documentary-style television show (even though it certainly presents itself as such). Like so many other shows these days, it’s a docudrama, meaning it features dramatizations of events that may or may not have occurred in real life.
Apparently, local law enforcement in Virginia (which is just one of the U.S. states in which the show is filmed) requested that Discovery add a disclaimer at the top of the show which states its true nature as a dramatization, but that request was “overlooked.”
“With the laws in Virginia, and I’m pretty sure around anywhere else, you must be witnessed and physical samples of what you’re producing have to be taken and analyzed,” he told BourbonBlog.com. “All of this has to be produced in a court of law and then that arresting officer has to testify. How are you going to arrest me for moonshining I did five years ago? Moonshiners take a lot of precautions.”
So far, it seems like those precautions have ended up working pretty well, as the show is still being made and its stars have, for the most part, managed to stay out of trouble with the law (Tickle has been arrested several times, but not for any moonshine-related charges). We’re sure fans of the show hope that continues for a long, long time.
Catch new episodes of Moonshiners Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EST. You can also stream the show on Discovery Plus.