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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Ease Penalties For Inadvertent Alcohol Sales

Michael Kappel
The penalty for mistakenly selling alcohol to minors in Oregon could soon be reduced to a violation.

Checkout clerks in Oregon who accidentally sell alcohol to minors could have fewer repercussions to fear.

Imagine for a moment that you are a busy supermarket clerk, ringing up hundreds of dollars of sales per hour. A young man hands you his ID, you make a quick glance and accidently transpose two digits in the birthday. The next thing you know you're under arrest for selling alcohol to a minor.

Several former grocery store clerks told lawmakers that happened to them. They said they shouldn't be criminalized for a simple mistake. Oregon lawmakers agreed that if it was a mistake, the penalty should be reduced to a violation, along the lines of a speeding ticket.

According to the Oregon chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers union's Jeff Anderson, even though the misdemeanor charges rarely led to actual jail time, the stigma could have long-lasting consequences.

"If you were a 20, 30 year employee at a grocery store, a first offense you get terminated," he says. "You can't be re-employed in the industry because you have a criminal record."

The measure passed both chambers with wide support. Governor John Kitzhaber is expected to sign it.