Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Donít blame clerks for teen drinking

I understand that underage consumption and selling of alcohol are both wrong and illegal, but I question who is the real victim. The teens, of course. The community, probably. However, I believe the real victim here is the clerks themselves and the stores that employee them.

For a first offense for selling to a minor, regardless if it's knowingly or not, it is a mandatory $500 fine plus court costs and/or up to a year imprisonment. A second offense is a $1,000 to $2,000 fine plus court costs and/or a year imprisonment. For people making $9-$10 per hour, in a down economy, it is a devastating impact to their finances. Even the stores are hit with a fine, and possibly could lose their liquor licenses.

As for the punishment on the teens, knowingly committing a crime, they are slapped with a mere $150 to $300 fine. Most of the time, they are being released on a verbal warning and made to dump out all alcohol beverages. No jail time, no probation and a minimal fine.

My problem with this is, simply, putting less punishment on the teens that are knowingly committing crimes, and more on the distracted, hard-working people living paycheck to paycheck. These stings help only a fraction of the underage drinking in this community, and more needs to be done in other areas. I know for a fact that most teens get their alcohol from older friends, family members and even some parents. We were all young once, and you know as well as I do that it's true.

A sheriff's newsletter to the stores who sell alcohol stated that "a majority of teens get their alcohol directly from the store." Really? Maybe it's true, if he looks like a 30-year-old man or the person sent into the store for the sting also looks 30. Maybe it's time to redirect the finger toward who is really to blame for underage drinking in this community. You know who you are.

Forrest Spencer


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