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stop underage drinkingAn ordinance change that follows state law protects those under 21 found with alcohol or suspected of drinking, while still imposing appropriate consequences. The change was expected to be approved in October.

As a safety measure, the ordinance change says minors cannot be charged for alcohol-related violations if they seek medical assistance for themselves or a companion. This is to encourage teens to call for help if they see someone in distress, even if alcohol is involved.

Under the change, the first offense for a minor with alcohol would be a civil infraction, instead of a misdemeanor that would stay on the person’s criminal record.  Underage drinkers would still face the same possible consequences, including up to $100 in fines, community service, and alcohol abuse education or treatment at the violator’s expense. 

The ordinance change also prohibits a police officer from forcing a minor to take a breath test if they refuse. Instead, the officer would have to obtain a court order.

Police still will notify the parents of anyone younger than 18 caught with alcohol.