Panel considers two underage drinking laws in Nevada
Minors in Nevada showing any signs of alcohol use would be guilty of a crime, under a bill reviewed Wednesday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
SB205 provides that people between seven and 21 years old would be guilty of a misdemeanor crime if they show any signs of impairment from consuming alcohol.
Impairment means “any observable signs or symptoms commonly associated with the use of alcoholic beverages.”
Laurel Stadler, of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told the Judiciary Committee that SB205 closes a loophole in state law that prohibits minors from physically possessing alcohol, but doesn’t deal with alcohol in their blood stream.
“We would be providing a tool to law enforcement statewide,” Stadler said.
The bill also allows the courts to direct youths convicted of being impaired by alcohol into treatment programs if they need it. Stadler said that’s a key provision for youths who would otherwise slip through the cracks.
She said alcohol and drug use is one of the most common precursors to youth suicide and depression.
Jim Nadeau, representing the Washoe County Sheriff’s office, said Washoe County has a similar ordinance that has worked well.
No one testified against the bill, already approved by the Senate. But Assembly Majority Leader Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, questioned its need when consumption of alcohol is already illegal.
However, the bill’s proponents said law enforcement officers must catch minors in the act in order to cite them for consumption.
The committee also considered SB91, another Senate-endorsed measure which would to offer protections for retail clerks who sell alcohol.
The bill would give such clerks a defense against charges of selling alcohol to minors if that minor showed identification that any “reasonable person” would consider valid.
The concept of what a reasonable person would consider valid, however, quickly became an issue of contention.
Assemblyman John Carpenter, who owns a service station-convenience store in Elko, said the bill could shift liability to his clerks who might accept an ID that later turned out to be fake.
“I think we have a real problem here for a person that is supposed to look at these things and figure out whether they were counterfeit or not because they just really don’t know,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter’s concerns were echoed by the Retail Association of Nevada.
Stan Olsen, a lobbyist for the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, said the point of the bill is to ensure the clerks check for identification, adding, “The idea behind this is to protect the clerk.”
Judiciary Chairman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, asked all interested parties to work out their differences and come back with a resolution.