Alcohol seller wants to blacklist problem drinkers

Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) - An Anchorage-based chain of liquor stores says buying alcohol is a privilege that should be taken away from people who commit crimes after excessive drinking.

O.C. Madden III, personnel and loss prevention manager for Brown Jug Inc., wants to flag such problem drinkers through a mark on their driver's license or state identification card. Store clerks and bartenders would not sell to people with the mark.

Madden's idea also calls for civil penalties against anyone who sells to those drinkers or buys alcohol for them.

Madden has been talking quietly with advocacy groups and officials at the Alcohol Beverage Control Board for months and decided to go public with the proposal after three car crashes in recent weeks that killed one woman and left two others seriously injured.

Anchorage police say all three crashes were caused by drunk drivers who had criminal drunk-driving records. One of the accused men has seven previous DWI convictions.

``I'd just like to see these wrecks stopped,'' Madden said.

The concept is quickly drawing reaction. Mothers Against Drunk Driving likes it, as does state Corrections Commissioner Margaret Pugh and Attorney General Bruce Botelho.

``I think it's an intriguing idea,'' Botelho said.

As long as the privilege to buy alcohol was taken away through a court proceeding, he said, ``I don't initially see anything that poses a major constitutional problem. We already bar classes of people - minors - from being able to make purchases.''

But the Alaska Civil Liberties Union says it would trample on people's rights and freedoms.

``What business is it of store owners what people do outside the store?'' said Jennifer Rudinger, AkCLU executive director. ``It's unworkable. It violates the Constitution of the United States and the state of Alaska.''

Madden's proposal would allow a police officer arresting someone for an alcohol-related offense to immediately suspend the person's right to purchase alcohol, perhaps by punching a hole in their driver's license.

The list of alcohol-related offenses that could cost someone their booze privileges includes weapons misconduct, domestic violence assault and sexual assault.

Someone acquitted of charges would get their privilege reinstated automatically. Those who are convicted could appeal to a panel to regain the privilege.

Ed O'Neil, one of Brown Jug's owners, says the company won't push the idea if the community doesn't want it.

``We're trying to be creative, and we're hoping to minimize the carnage out there,'' O'Neil said.

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