A Utah bill could prevent offenders from buying alcohol at state stores

(Steve Griffin | Tribune file photo) Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, discusses a bill on March 6, 2017.

A Utah legislator wants to create an alcohol-restricted list — one that would prohibit individuals prone to overconsumption from purchasing products at state-run liquor stores.

These people still could buy beer at grocery or convenience stores.

Most of the names added to the Alcohol-Restricted Individual Program, proposed under HB325, would come through a court order as part of a drunken driving sentence or probation requirement, said sponsoring Rep. Steve Eliason.

But anyone could voluntarily add his or her name to the restricted list — a move that Eliason believes might keep those who have been released from alcohol treatment programs from relapsing or help prevent some suicides.

“It’s not the end-all, cure-all by any means,” the Sandy Republican said, “but it could be a piece of the puzzle from several perspectives.”

Under HB325, the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control would create the program, which would "prohibit a state store from selling, offering for sale, or furnishing liquor to an individual enrolled in the program.”

Liquor store employees would identify restricted individuals through electronic scanning of a driver license. The DABC, according to the bill, would be barred from disclosing any information about those who participate.

Individuals who voluntarily add their name to the program, could have it removed at any time.

Eliason said Monday that the bill is meant to solve a problem he believes exists with the current sentencing and probation requirements for those cited for drunken driving.

"The state releases them from custody and they can walk to a state-liquor store and purchase products,” he explained. "On one hand, the state is telling them not do something and, on the other hand, the state is facilitating it.”

Under his measure, a judge could order an individual to enroll in the program for a period of time, even after a first-time DUI conviction. Utah has the nation’s lowest blood alcohol limit — 0.05% — for drunken driving.

Beyond the court-ordered participation, Eliason said he hoped that counselors in residential treatment centers would encourage patients to voluntarily sign up for the restricted list as a condition of their release.

“For somebody trying to recover,” he said, “we know alcohol is tempting, and it’s easy to fall off the wagon.

“It doesn’t mean they can’t go to a convenience store and buy beer," he added, “but it’s a tool that can aid them.”

Counselors helping those with depression might also find the list useful, he said, in helping to prevent suicides.

“Putting time and distance between the suicidal person and the means is one of the most important tools to prevention," he said. “And while alcohol is not typically the method, it is an exacerbating factor.”

Editor’s noteIf you or people you know are at risk of self-harm, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org.