Gov. Jesse Ventura signed a bill Monday raising the penalties for providing alcohol to underage drinkers.
The new law will make it a felony to give alcohol to anyone under the age of 21, providing stronger penalties for people who provide alcohol to an underage drinker who dies or suffers “great bodily harm.” Under the existing law, only selling alcohol to underage drinkers constitutes a felony; furnishing alcohol to minors is a gross misdemeanor.
The new penalties will also apply if the underage drinker injures or kills another person.
Felonies carry a minimum penalty of more than one year in prison and/or a $3,000 fine. Gross misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, carrying a minimum penalty of up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
“Now it’s a felony if you’re providing alcohol to an underage person in any way,” said Paul Moore, a spokesman for the governor.
Alcohol-related arrests at the University rose from 383 during the 1996-97 school year to 555 in 1997-98, making the University the second-highest campus nationwide in terms of alcohol-related arrests, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. While the study didn’t analyze the numbers on a per-capita basis, University officials are still concerned about campus drinking.
Those arrests include underage consumption violations as well as other violations such as consuming alcohol in public.
The new law will take effect Aug. 1.
— Amy Olson