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Penalties may stiffen for buying booze for minors

Associated Press BISMARCK - Requiring jail time for people caught buying alcohol for minors would "hamstring" judges, say opponents of legislation that would impose a minimum mandatory sentence for supplying illegal booze to young people. Sen. El...

Associated Press

BISMARCK - Requiring jail time for people caught buying alcohol for minors would "hamstring" judges, say opponents of legislation that would impose a minimum mandatory sentence for supplying illegal booze to young people.

Sen. Elroy Lindaas, D-Mayville, the bill's primary sponsor, called it a safety measure. His nephew was killed by a drunken driver who was only 13 years old.

Under Senate Bill 2177, those caught buying booze for people younger than the legal age of 21 would pay a fine of at least $250 and spend at least two days in jail on the first offense.

A second offense would bring a fine of at least $500 and 10 days in jail, of which two days must be served consecutively.

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Buying alcohol for minors already is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. However, people convicted of the crime generally get a much lower fine and no jail time.

The North Dakota State's Attorneys Association, which represents county prosecutors, favors harsher penalties for people who buy booze for minors, said Aaron Birst, a former assistant Cass County prosecutor. However, the group opposes the bill because it leaves judges no choice, he said.

Minimum mandatory sentences also might prompt more people to take their case to trial, which would mean more work for the court system, he said.

Sen. David Nething, R-Jamestown, said the bill might be more palatable if it imposed minimum mandatory sentences for the second and third offenses, and not the first.

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