Providing booze to minors could become felony

Posted: Wednesday, April 03, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- The House of Representatives voted Tuesday to make it a felony to provide alcohol to an underage drinker if the minor later hurts or kills someone while under the influence.

Representatives voted 34-4 in favor of the bill, although some who voted for the measure expressed misgivings about it.

The House Judiciary Committee sponsored the bill at the request of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Committee Chairman Norman Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, said the measure was a response to a drunken-driving crash last summer that killed three teen-agers and an Anchorage police officer.

''That's what this bill is about,'' Rokeberg said. ''Let's stop the carnage on our highways.''

Two Anchorage men in their 30s were charged with misdemeanors for supplying alcohol to the teens in the case. A misdemeanor is punishable by a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

If such crimes were to become class C felonies, as called for under House Bill 330, the punishment could be up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Several legislators questioned whether the bill would have unforeseen consequences.

Rep. John Davies, D-Fairbanks, said he would support the measure if it could be limited to addressing the Anchorage wreck.

But he raised the scenario that a parent who serves his teen-ager and a friend a glass of wine with dinner could be charged with a felony if the two get in a fight while walking home and someone is hurt.

''It's too broad and it brings in circumstances people aren't contemplating here,'' Davies said.

Rep. Jeannette James, R-North Pole, also worried about the long-term consequences of a felony conviction for someone who may not be aware of the seriousness of their crime.

''When we jump over the fence from a misdemeanor to a felony, I get very nervous,'' James said.

Reps. Davies, Sharon Cissna, D-Anchorage; Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau; and Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, cast the only no votes.

Davies gave notice he may ask that the bill be reconsidered Wednesday. If the outcome of the vote does not change, the measure will go to the Senate for consideration.

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