Underage drinking a local concern as graduation season starts

Published 1:06 pm Thursday, May 9, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — Graduation season starts tonight with the Reading Nook celebrating the graduation of nine students and will end with Brookhaven’s graduation on May 24. Parents have reached out to The Daily Leader with concerns about underage drinking following graduations. 

One parent reported a handful of businesses in Brookhaven were selling alcohol to minors, anyone under the age of 21,

Brookhaven Police Chief Kenny Collins said there have not been any recent investigations of local businesses selling alcohol to minors. He added his officers would be keeping a closer eye. 

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“They will also ask adults to go into stores and buy alcohol for them,” he said. 

It is illegal for an adult to buy alcohol for a minor. 

Mississippi’s Alcohol Beverage Control stated they could not comment on any active investigations. The enforcement division did state they had investigated a store in Brookhaven in the past year for selling to minors. Tips of illegal sales can be sent to abcenforcement@dor.ms.gov.

The Center for Disease Control states alcohol sales to minors is still a common problem in communities. 

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 15.1 percent of adolescents surveyed in 2022 used alcohol and 11.8 percent of adolescents use marijuana. Both substances impair driving and judgment. 

The NIAAA recommends parents talk with their children about the dangers of adolescent alcohol use, how to drink responsibly if they do choose to drink and for parents to be actively involved. 

Impaired driving is deadly

One parent expressed concern that seniors would drink following graduation this year and then deciding to get behind the wheel of a car. A 2021 Youth Risk Survey published by the Center for Disease Control found 5 percent of teens reported they drove after drinking and 14 percent rode with a driver who had been drinking in the past 30 days. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 32 percent of all driving fatalities involve drunk drivers. In Mississippi, 31 percent of traffic fatalities involve a drunk driver according to the Mississippi Department of transportation. The 10 year average from 2012 to 2022 drunk driving fatalities was about 11,000.

Lincoln County had a fatal wreck this year due to drunk driving. Titus Holmes, a 2023 Bogue Chitto graduate, was killed in a wreck caused by a drunk driver in February

Legal consequences

In Mississippi, it is illegal for anyone to provide alcohol to a minor under Mississippi Annotated code 67-1-81 The person would be guilty of a misdemeanor and would be punished by a fine of not less than $500.00 and not more than $1,000 for a first offense. 

“A second or subsequent offense, such permittee or other person shall be punished by a fine of not less than $1,000 nor more than $2,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court,” the law states. 

It is also illegal for minors to purchase, receive or possess alcohol in any public place. The charge is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine no less than $200 and no more than $500. Additionally, it is illegal for minors to make false statements that they are of legal drinking age. 

“Any person under the age of 21 who knowingly makes a false statement to the effect that he or she is 21 years old or older or presents any document that indicates he or she is 21 years of age or older for the purpose of purchasing alcoholic beverages from any person engaged in the sale of alcoholic beverages shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not less than Two Hundred Dollars ($200.00) nor more than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), and a sentence to not more than thirty (30) days’ community service,” the law states.