Beer - Alcohol

It's sill illegal to drink alcohol if you're under the age of 21 in Alaska -- as it is across the United States -- but the ramifications aren't as harsh as they used to be. A new law that was signed by Governor Bill Walker cuts back on the penalties minors will see when they're caught with alcoholic beverages.

The Change

Under the old laws, underage drinking was a misdemeanor. Unless the offenders had it removed, it would remain on their records. Now, though, they're just going to get a $500 fine. That won't stay on a long-term record. Beyond that, if they go to an alcohol education course and complete it, the fine will be massively reduced to $50.

Protecting the Future

Those who support the change said it was not easy to do. There were around 70 people involved, all working hard to make it a reality. Their reasoning, they said, was simply that a conviction could ruin a young person's future. It could hurt their chances of going to college and getting scholarships. It could make it harder for them to get jobs. To protect their futures -- but without making underage drinking legal -- they felt that other ramifications were more appropriate. This way, they say, one mistake at age 15 won't haunt someone for years to come. They can pay, learn, and move on.

There are concerns that the law won't be tough enough, but proponents pointed out that it's mostly focused on teenagers, who don't typically have full-time jobs or high-paying positions. For them, they said, a $500 fine is a real consequence and is a large sum. They believe it will still be enough to deter underage drinking, at least as much as the old laws were able to do.

The Difference in Youth Laws

It's important to note this change if you live in Alaska, of course, as it could drastically alter the impact of an MIP (minor in possession) charge. This also underscores some of the key differences between adult laws and youth laws, which are often focused on rehabilitation and education.