Proposed bill could put minors through cash withdrawal

Thomas Douty

Minnesota lawmakers are attempting to make life a little tougher on minors who use fake identification cards by increasing the maximum fine by up to $2,300.
The proposed law, which passed a House committee earlier this month, would increase the crime of using false identification to purchase alcohol to a gross misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $3,000 and a year in jail. It would also impose a mandatory 90-day driver’s license suspension on repeat offenders.
Currently, the crime for a minor purchasing tobacco with a false ID card is a petty misdemeanor, which at most results in a $200 fine. The new law would change it to a misdemeanor, which could mean a $700 fine and 90 days in jail.
Rep. Peggy Leppik, R-Golden Valley, said the new law would help bar owners and retailers stop the sale of tobacco and alcohol to minors by acting as more of a deterrent.
But Rep. Dave Bishop, R-Rochester, one of the six House Crime Prevention Committee members who voted against the bill, said the law is unnecessary and the penalty it recommends is too severe.
“I think we’ve got a good law the way it is now, and I’m sorry we’re running for election; it seems to bring up increases in penalties every two years,” Bishop said.
A University sophomore, who preferred to remain anonymous, said she has used a fake ID card at University area bars.
She said she sometimes feels guilty, but it’s not that big of a deal because fake ID use is so widespread.
“I kind of see it as sort of innocent,” she said.
Leppik, chief author of the bill, said she wanted to provide some legal support for alcohol and tobacco venders who can expect to face a gross misdemeanor and could possibly be shut down if they sell to minors.
Sue Jeffers, owner of Stub and Herb’s bar on Washington Avenue in Stadium Village, said she is glad to see some of the responsibility switch to minors breaking the law.
Stub and Herb’s was busted once in an undercover sting operation 10 years ago and was forced to close down for a short period of time.
Jeffers said bars must accept some responsibility for checking ID cards and for keeping minors out, but minors need to carry some of that responsibility, too.
Leppik has received support from several bar owners and alcohol and tobacco retailers.
“I don’t think we can continue to have virtually no consequences for those who are trying to break the law and very heavy consequences for those who are trying to carry on a legitimate business,” Leppik said.
Rep. Jerry Dempsey, R-Hastings, said the law is worth a try because the present law is not a strong enough deterrent.
“The way the laws are set up right now, it is almost a fun challenge for young people to try to get away with this because there are no consequences for them,” Leppik said.
The new law would also make it legal for bar owners and retailers to hold a person’s identification, if they believe it to be false, for up to 48 hours or until police can arrive on the scene.
Many vendors often hold identification they believe to be fake, but they don’t have any legal grounds to do so, said Leppik.
Some lawmakers are concerned that people who are 21 years old but look young could have their identification held for up to 48 hours by a bar or retailer.
But Leppik said most minors won’t put up a fight to keep a fake ID card, but someone older than 21 would.
The bill is currently waiting to be introduced onto the House floor. If passed, it would go into effect in August of 2000.

Thomas Douty welcomes comments at [email protected]