Legislation Would Ease Penalty For Serving Minors

New Mexico – A House committee has approved a measure that would lessen the penalty for someone who sells or serves alcoholic beverages to a minor.

The bill by Rep. Antonio "Moe" Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat, would make it a misdemeanor rather than a fourth-degree felony to serve alcohol to someone under age 21.

A first offense could be punished by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine. Currently, a felony conviction could mean 18 months in prison.

The Consumer and Public Affairs Committee unanimously approved the measure on Tuesday. It goes to another panel for consideration.

Maestas said bars and restaurants need to be diligent in checking a customer's age but he contends misdemeanor penalties are more appropriate for those who serve alcohol to minors.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.