Mid-Michigan residents react to changes in underage drinking law - WNEM TV 5

Mid-Michigan residents react to changes in underage drinking law

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)

The new year came with what many consider a controversial change to a state law - giving underage drinkers a second chance.

Minors caught with booze would be charged with a civil infraction instead of a misdemeanor.

Lawmakers said this gives young people the chance to avoid a criminal record, but some believe this could just encourage more minors to drink.

"Even if they just had a beer in their hand, maybe they had a little bit. They should understand there's reasons why we have these laws," said Lauren Ochs, student at Saginaw Valley State University.

She is in favor of stricter laws dealing with underage drinking.

New laws determining the punishment for minors in possession of alcohol went into effect Jan. 1.

In years past, a first time offense was a misdemeanor that included a $100 fine and up to 90 days in jail. Now a first time offense is only a civil infraction with the same $100 fine.

Ochs said at the very least the minor should be forced to pay more.

"I think that maybe the fine should be increased a little bit and come straight from the minor instead of from the parents at all," Ochs said.

Claire Barckholtz, another student, believes the punishment never should have changed.

"I think it still should be a misdemeanor after the first offense just because this is a very serious thing. You could seriously injure someone," Barckholtz said.

State Senator Jim Stamas supports the changes in the law.

"Sometimes we all make mistakes. I think this is good legislation that continues to put our youth in a positive direction moving forward, instead of something that goes with them for the rest of their lives," Stamas said.

Other cardinals on campus agreed with Stamas.

"In case they give into peer pressure once they don't have to pay dearly for it. And now they just kind of know not to give in to peer pressure again," one student said.

Under the new law, a second offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine.

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