Bill Would Make Giving Alcohol To A Minor A Felony For Those Over 21 Years Old

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HB1458, introduced by Rep. Chuck Damschen (who introduced legislation to ban tailgating during the last legislative session) has a bill that would make it a Class C Felony for anyone over the age of 21 to provide alcohol to a minor.

There are a number of problems with this bill.

First, I’m not sure that contributing alcohol to a minor should rise to a level of a felony. Frankly, I think our anti-drinking laws are too puritanical as is. If anything, I think parents ought to have some leeway to help their children develop a healthy relationship with alcohol before they’re adults. Letting the kids have a few glasses of wine, or a few beers, in a controlled setting with mom and dad would be better than having a kid’s first exposure to alcohol be at some unsupervised house party, or when they’re 21 and living on their own for the first time.

A lot of parents are already doing this, despite the law. We’re now going to make those parents felons? Let’s be serious.

Second, while the law gives some leeway for private citizens by only criminalizing the “knowing” delivery of alcohol to minors, employees of liquor stores or bars get no such leeway. The word “knowingly” is not in existing law for employees of licensed liquor establishments, nor is it added in this bill raising the penalty to a felony.

Which means that a kid with a really convincing fake ID who manages to slip into a bar, or make a purchase at a liquor store, while fooling the employees there is making those employees guilty of a felony punishable by “for which a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment, a fine of five thousand dollars, or both, may be imposed.”

That is punishment far in excess of the seriousness of the crime.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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