Palm Beach County Might Fight Underaged Drinking by Telling People What Underaged Drinking Is

Categories: Crime
Palm Beach County
There is a hearing on Tuesday to get public input for a proposed Palm Beach County ordinance pertaining to underaged drinking, which a County Commission brief describes as "an increasing problem" in the area. The commission wants to fight this scourge, this dangerous habit that is being enabled by drinking establishments throughout the land -- with signs. Signs that say, "It is unlawful to purchase alcohol if you are under 21 years of age."

You know, in case those 17-year-olds with the bogus Virginia licenses weren't aware.

The summary of the bill says the County Commission "has determined that an effective way to combat this problem is to make the general public aware of the general prohibitions against service of alcohol to minors and the penalties associated with such service." Is it really that effective? Is there anyone walking around under the impression that there aren't penalties?

I'll call around to find out how this conclusion was drawn, but 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine doesn't seem like it's really going to shock anyone. Or deter anyone from doing it.

The actual bill just says that any business selling alcohol will now have to post a sign on paper of at least letter size (nice try, Post-It man) that says underaged drinking is illegal. It would also require that the sign include a statement detailing "the penalties associated with the sale or dispensing of alcoholic beverages to persons under 21 years of age." It does not require any details about the penalties for buying alcohol while underage, so maybe the commission is hoping high-schoolers will be deterred if they know they could cost that one cool liquor store $500.

If you think I'm nitpicking, know that the proposal is so specifically worded that the first section includes definitions for "sale" and "person."

The final vote is Tuesday. Here's the original agenda item:

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Let's be fair; the teen with a fake ID has already discounted any punishment they may receive; if they were worried about committing the crime, they wouldn't have a fake ID in the first place.  The kids make their decision about breaking the law long before they wind up at the counter with a six-pack.

So it's obvious that this law is not to stop kids from buying alcohol, it's to stop adults from selling alcohol to kids.

The sales clerk didn't start his or her day thinking "I'm going to break laws today."  But a teen shows up, they present an ID that seems a bit off, and NOW there is a choice.  And that is when the sign comes into play; is it worth risking the $500 fine or 60 days in the clink to make a $10 sale? 

The sign makes it easier for the clerk to deny the sale.  "Look at that sign," they can say.  "I'm sorry, I'd rather you be pissed at me for not selling you beer than wind up in jail."

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