Coalition provides alcohol retailers with a sign of the times

"Providing or selling alcohol to minors will now cost you more," says Lisa Hutcheson, Director of the Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking. When a new alcohol law, HEA 1118, goes into effect on July 1, financial penalties and time served will both increase.

The law allows for an increase in the penalties for providing alcohol to minors from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class B or a Class A (if there are subsequent offenses). And, if the alcohol consumption results in a serious injury or death, the penalty could increase to a Class D felony.

According to Hutcheson, these new penalties also affect the wallet of the accused. The law levies heavier fines as well as an increase in jail time.

Stemming the Flow of Alcohol to Minors

To encourage alcohol retailers to join in the efforts of the coalition, free store signage (counter and cash register signs) is available to alert customers to have ID ready. "Checking the ID of anyone who purchases alcohol is one way that retailers can reduce youth access to alcohol," said Hutcheson.

The new law encompasses many other changes to alcohol regulation in Indiana: establishes the definition of a grocery store, re-aligns the system for alcohol permit quotas, and affords the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission and local law enforcement agencies the authority to conduct alcohol compliance checks. Minors who use illegal IDs to attempt to purchase alcohol will also face stiffer penalties, with the new law applying charges of a Class C misdemeanor instead of an infraction.

"Indiana law makers are taking an important step in controlling the availability of alcohol through passage of this law. Alcohol abuse by our children results in a tremendous loss of human potential. Much remains to be done. We need to carefully watch for the outcome of the legislative study committee which will be reviewing all aspects of the 21st Amendment," says Jim Killen, an advocate representing the Children's Coalition of Indiana who also worked diligently to see the bill through its passage into law.

As part of HB 1118, legislators will spend the next two years studying the 21st amendment and how well the three-tier system of manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer serves the interest of Hoosiers. "We are particularly interested in continued efforts to curb alcohol use by minors and look forward to providing the Study Committee with information about the many ways the three-tier system helps Hoosier consumers and keeps alcohol out of the hands of people Indiana has determined shouldn't have it," says Jim Purucker, Executive Director of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of Indiana. "The bill's increased penalties are a step in the right direction."

"Though the bill was cumbersome at times and complex, we feel it was a good compromise between alcohol industry interests and public health concerns," said Hutcheson. "We would like to once again thank Representative Trent Van Haaften (D-Mt. Vernon), Representative Matt Bell (R-Avilla), and Senator Tom Weatherwax (R - Logansport) for their diligence and commitment to this bill which will help to reduce youth access to alcohol."

The Indiana Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking is a program of Mental Health America of Indiana.

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