Missouri City Reevaluates Underage Drinking

Although clear laws and penalties for underage drinking are on the books across Missouri, debate over how best to handle the issue continues. As legal statutes are studied and possibly reconfigured, both minors and adults of legal drinking age need to keep abreast of national, state, county, and city policies.

Currently Cape Girardeau is in the middle of reviewing its legal language on underage drinking, specifically regarding minor-aged patrons of bars and restaurants where alcohol is sold. On the table is an ordinance that would ban those under the age of 21 from being in a place of business for which alcohol accounts for 35% or more of annual gross sales after 10 p.m. The only exception to this rule would be in the case of a present parent or legal guardian, or possibly if the minor is an employee of the business itself.

While the ordinance may appear to be a common sense solution to underage drinking in businesses that serve, some residents, including Cape Girardeau’s Mayor, are skeptical. They suspect that the city may not only be overstepping its regulatory boundaries, but also worry that the law would push underage drinking into more private places, where overconsumption, injury, and illness might be more likely.

In a survey of city residents, 60% favored sticking to the laws already in place, which simply state that “no one shall sell or supply alcohol to any person under 21.” Additional anxiety over the negative impact nighttime theater and music events would suffer as a result of the measure has been voiced.

While in some parts of Missouri the enforcement of underage drinking laws may be in flux, sentencing that includes fines and a permanently blemished criminal record is not up for debate. Contacting an attorney well-versed in underage drinking law can be the best first step toward a not-guilty verdict.

Source: Southeast Missourian, “City takes longer look at underage drinking ordinance,” Erin Ragan, Nov. 11, 2012

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