Fines aimed at underage drinking

By Stewart Warren

The fines for underage drinking in DeKalb were increased to stop minors from drinking, DeKalb Mayor Greg Sparrow said.

After March 12, if minors are caught possessing or drinking alcohol, they will be fined $100 instead of $60. The minimum fine for misrepresenting age and for delivery of alcohol to a minor increased from $60 to $150.

The minimum and maximum fine for selling liquor without a license increased from between $60 and $300, to between $500 and $1,000.

The city staff recommended the increase in fines because the police are spending too much time dealing with minors drinking, DeKalb City Attorney Ron Matekaitis said.

“Higher fines and knowledge of those fines might discourage or redirect these activities so they don’t consume an undue amount of police time,” Matekaitis said.

In 1989, local police handled about 350 cases—nearly one case per day—involving minors drinking alcohol, he said.

These types of violations are increasing and we want to curb them. The only way we can do it is hit them in the pocketbook,” he said.

Two aldermen, however, disagreed. “They are masking it (the new ordinance) as a deterrent when really they are using it as a revenue generator,” 6th Ward Alderman Jamie Pennington said.

Seventh Ward Alderman Jeff Monroe agreed, saying, “I think people in my ward are against high fines and the fines aren’t being used as a deterrent.”

Monroe said he thinks the city should prosecute underage drinkers with state statutes instead of local ordinances if they are trying to control illegal alcohol consumption.

State statutes are stricter, but the fines would be paid to the state, preventing the city from profiting, he said.

“With the increase in revenue—if we have the same amount of violations next year and the judges impose minimum fines, which they usually do—it will generate an added $10,500, only a drop in the bucket of the city’s total budget of $13 to $14 million,” Sparrow said.

Monroe proposed an amendment to fine underage drinkers older than 18 less than those younger than 18 to discourage high school drinkers. However, no one supported his proposal.

McCabes Lounge Owner Glen Goering said underage drinkers should be ready to face the consequences. “I don’t want to see anyone paying fines, but if someone misrepresents their age, they are doing it willingly.”

Underage drinkers in bars are not only breaking the law, they are also jeopardizing the bar owner’s liquor license, Goering said.