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County considers less-strict alcohol punishment
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In Hall County, someone convicted of an alcohol-related misdemeanor will be banned from working in all businesses that sell alcohol in the county for five years — a punishment the Hall County Board of Commissioners thinks is too strict.

At its 9 a.m. work session Monday, the commission discussed doing away with the penalties.

“If somebody gets caught selling alcohol (to a minor) at a convenience store, then they’ve got five years they couldn’t even work at a Wal-Mart or Kroger or anywhere that sells alcohol,” said Chairman Tom Oliver. “We don’t need that.”

Alcohol-related felonies would result in a person being banned from working in any county business with an alcohol beverage license for 10 years.

“To me this is really ridiculous,” said Commissioner Steve Gailey.

Hall County Attorney Bill Blalock said these hard-line penalties were set by a different commission about 10 years ago after a state undercover operation in the county.

“They made several underage cases in Hall County. They sent someone around to buy beer and wine that was underage,” Blalock said. “The commission at that time thought something needed to be done to put some teeth in the enforcement of the sale of alcoholic beverages.”

Blalock said outside of Hall County, penalties for alcohol-related crimes are much more lenient and are typically set by the state court. Common rulings include fines and probation.

Commissioner Ashley Bell suggested one way to make the county ordinance more lenient would be to put the restrictions on the individual rather than the establishment.

“As long as they weren’t selling alcohol, it would seem like it would make sense,” Bell said.

Gailey suggested doing away with the ordinance rather than amending it.

“I don’t see why we need it at all,” Gailey said. “I think it ought to be just deleted.”

The commission will schedule two public hearings, beginning with the Nov. 12 meeting, before taking a vote on the ordinance.