New law helps police battle underage drinking

By Amanda Hanson - bio | email feedback

BAXTER COUNTY, AR (KAIT)- A new law is helping police officers in Arkansas combat under age drinking, and one Region 8 Sheriff's Department says it's a law they've been pushing for years.

The law will allow officers to charge minors with possession of alcohol just for having it in their system. Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery says it's a law he's tried to get passed three times since 2005, but the forth time was a charm.

"it's a huge , huge goal. I've personally testified down the legislature three different times on this issue. And again, we've been unsuccessful until now," said Baxter County Sheriff John Montgomery. He says a new piece of legislature is helping police officers take on under age drinking. It's been something he's been pushing for since 2005.

"Simply because of the number of serious injuries and deaths that have occurred with young people drinking. So that is why it has been a focus, and has been for the past six years," said Montgomery.

He says with a lot of tourism throughout the county, like lakes, rivers, and the national forest, it can often be a problem area for under age drinking. Montgomery says in the past, a minor couldn't be charged as a minor in possession if they weren't actually holding an alcoholic beverage in their hand.

"Minors are very smart and there are many times that we have found that they know that they can set that beer or alcoholic drink down, and walk away from it. And again, if you didn't actually catch them in possession of that alcohol there was really little law enforcement could do," said Montgomery.

The new law, put into place Wednesday, says that the presence of alcohol in the body of a minor shall now be deemed possession of alcohol. Montgomery says it's a charge that comes with steep consequences.

"They could lose their license for 60 days, along with the fines and penalties that go along with it. Having this new law in the book we think will be a huge key to helping law enforcement combat under age drinking," said Montgomery.

Montgomery says the new law will be a huge asset for police officers. And reminds citizens, that under age drinking is against the law and it will continue to be a major focus for the department.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.