Although drinking before you're 21 is illegal in the U.S., a report by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention shows people age 12 to 20 drink 11 percent of alcohol consumed in our country.
One of the main topics of the Casper city council work session tonight focused on dealing with minors found with alcohol.
A recent Wyoming Supreme Court case found municipal courts do not have authority to put someone on probation for being a minor in possession of alcohol, unless city or town law provides for jail time for a term equal or greater than the probation order.
Now, within Casper city law, there is no penalty of jail time for being a minor in possession of alcohol.
The law only provides fines for the offense, the fine being $750 or less.
However, while within the state statutes possession of alcohol by a minor can carry the same $750 fine, jail time up to 6 months is also included, giving circuit courts authority to give probation orders to minors caught with alcohol since the state statute provides a jail sentence.
In the past, according to a memo to the Casper City Manager, judges with the Casper Municipal Court had given probation orders for those convicted of being minors in possession of alcohol, something that was also done by municipal courts across the state as well, up until the new Wyoming Supreme Court ruling.
Tonight, city council was given three options to help decide what their next step should be when dealing with underage drinking in Casper.
"Do nothing, do nothing except for maybe go to the legislature and ask them to change the statute," said Judge Rob Hand of the Casper Municipal Court.
"If the City of Casper were to amend its ordinance into penalty ordinance to provide for some specific language, similar to what’s in 17.13.302 to specifically give us the authority to put people on probation and to suspend portions of sentence."
The third suggestion? Repeal the minor in possession law in Casper and the penalty of a fine, making it a crime for a minor to have alcohol, which would result in all tickets for the offense being written for the circuit court which already has the power to enter probation orders.
"Just give us the opportunity to assimilate that feedback and we're gonna bring you back a recommendation that again.. Deals with PI's as well as the MIP direction that we've gotten from the Supreme Court," said City Manager, Carter Napier.
After a round of discussion council decided to stick with the current city law.
"We are sticking with fines and have been with the MIP's for quite some time now so that isn’t a concern for us right now," said Mayor Kenyne Humphrey.
City council will wait for the city manager's recommendation about the next step they should take.
Because of the way state law works, judges at the Casper Municipal Court generally only deal with minors between 18 and under 21 who have been charged with having alcohol.