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Editorial

What's appropriate punishment for sale of alcohol to minors?

This week in Summit County, a woman was sentenced to 17 days in jail for her part buying whiskey for a group of teens, one of whom died of alcohol poisoning. Attorneys for the woman say she was devastated by the boy’s death and the sentence is appropriate but the mother of the Coalville teen who died says the punishment is far too light.

Fortunately that decision belonged to a judge who had to consider the well-being of both the defendant and the mother and, importantly, the message his ruling might send to others tempted to buy alcohol minors.

No doubt, there are many who would say the 17-day jail sentence is not commensurate with a crime that caused the death of a teenager. But there is really no punishment equal to a senseless death. The only positive outcome that can be gleaned from this tragedy is a renewed awareness throughout the community about the consequences of providing alcohol to minors.

In a nutshell: They could die and you could go to jail.

But of course it is never that simple. In the Coalville case, the defendant did not sell the whiskey directly to the boy who died. She sold it to one of his friends that she may or may not have known was underage.

And that is an important distinction. If you buy or give alcohol to someone, you are responsible for how it will be used. Period. No excuses. If you are a 21-year-old with an 18-year-old brother or sister and you agree to help them buy alcohol, you are responsible. If you are a parent hosting a party for teens and your liquor cabinet is open, you are responsible.

There is probably no punishment that would satisfy a mother whose son died due to the carelessness of another adult. Nor is there an apology strong enough to remove the guilt the woman must feel as she serves out her time in the Summit County jail this week. We can only hope their sorrow serves as a deterrent for others.


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