Editorial

    If you do the crime, then you should be willing to do the time. That was the message sent to underage people attempting to buy alcohol via a recent settlement between a University of New Hampshire student and a New Hampshire store owner — and it has set a precedent for store owners.

    Durham, N.H. Marketplace owner Chuck Cressy attempted to sue 19-year-old Jeremy Reney in a New Hampshire Superior Court because Reney used his brother’s ID to purchase alcohol from Cressy’s store. Cressy was fined $250 for selling alcohol to a minor. He then tried to recover $12,000 from Reney in a civil suit, an amount equal to the total he spends annually on deterring underage alcohol sales. The matter was settled out of court, but it does set a precedent for store owners to sue underage people who buy alcohol from them.

    The Guardian agrees with the principle that if a minor attempts to buy alcohol, then he is willingly breaking the law and should be punished for it. There is, however, one problem that we have with a store owner’s right to sue underage purchasers of alcohol: We feel that the minimum state standards of checking IDs are not enough and invite abuse on the part of store owners.

    Store owners who simply look at a driver’s license should not be rewarded for their laziness — or greed — by a court settlement. We feel that the minimum standards should be raised by states to require license-scanning equipment to verify valid driver’s licenses.

    If a store has satisfied increased state standards for checking identification, then we feel that there should be legal recourse for a store that is stuck with a fine that can range from $100 to $500 and could include a suspension of the store’s liquor license for one to 10 days. Such burdens should not rest squarely on the shoulders of store owners if they did make an effort to check the ID and scan it.

    Underage purchasers of alcohol know that they are breaking the law when they attempt to buy it from stores. Some go to great lengths to deceive cashiers, many with great success. It should not be the burden of the store owner to keep up with all of the tricks and technological advances of underage purchasers of alcohol, as long as they follow the preferably higher standards of the law on identification checks.

    We feel that this is a good precedent that allows liquor-selling businesses to have their day in court with those who willingly commit the crime, but we do warn that stricter minimum standards for I.D.-checking are needed to keep store owners from abusing this precedent.

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