New law could change minor in possession penalties - WNEM TV 5

New law could change minor in possession penalties

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New legislation intended to give underage drinkers busted by police a second chance passed overwhelmingly in the state house Tuesday afternoon.

In 2013, more than 6,000 minors -- mostly college students -- got popped for consuming or trying to purchase alcohol.

This led to misdemeanors and a criminal record, but the new bill changes this to a civil infraction and a simple fine.

Senator Rick Jones (R), who holds the 24th district senate seat, claims the current minor in possession law clogs up the courts, puts otherwise good kids in jail and jeopardizes their chances of getting a college education.

"We have a lot of minors. A lot of under 21,” Ken Scarmeas said.

Scarmeas runs Cardinals near the Saginaw Valley campus.

“I think a fine is a good idea. I think the establishment serving should still be held to their standard. Zero tolerance. I know I hold my staff to that. We ID everyone but kids are kids and that's a lot to take throughout your entire life a misdemeanor for making a mistake like that,” Scarmeas said.

The bill's author calls it a chance for young offenders to get their lives together without having them ruined.

"I think it's good news. I think it's going to benefit a lot of kids, especially even friends of mine. I know friends who've been affected by not making the best choices and getting caught doing that so having a $100 fine instead of a misdemeanor is going to be beneficial,” college student Samantha Derdowski said.

The governor is expected to sign the bill soon.

Under the new law, first-time offenders will pay a $100 fine.  Second offenses will remain misdemeanors, punishable by jail terms of up to 30 days and fines of $200. 

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