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§ 125.075(1), Procuring Alcohol for Minor Resulting in Death – Element of Scienter

State v. Ronald L. Wille, 2007 WI App 27, PFR filed 2/28/07
For Wille: Jerome A. Maeder, Benjamin Welch

Issue: Whether the scienter element of § 125.075(1) requires proof that the defendant know that a particular individual is under the legal drinking age.

Holding:

¶11   Wille makes much of the fact that Wis. Stat. § 125.075(1) refers several times to the victim in the singular: “to a person under 18 years of age”; “the underage person was”; “[t]he underage person dies.” Id. We conclude, however, that the reference to a single minor or underage person in the statute does not preclude its application to a defendant who procures alcohol beverages for a group of persons that the defendant knew or should have known were underage persons.¶12   We first note that Wis. Stat. § 990.001(1) provides that, when interpreting Wisconsin statutes, “unless [it] … would produce a result inconsistent with the manifest intent of the legislature … [t]he singular includes the plural, and the plural includes the singular.” …

¶13   We next observe that many criminal statutes refer to the victim of the described crime in the singular. Interpreting them as requiring that a defendant must knowingly direct his or her prohibited conduct toward a particular individual would produce results that are arguably “absurd or unreasonable.” …

¶14   We conclude it would be equally absurd or unreasonable to interpret Wis. Stat. § 125.075(1) as requiring a personal interaction between the defendant and the victim, or as requiring that the defendant have knowledge that a particular underage person would consume the alcohol procured by the defendant. …

¶15   We thus conclude that a violation of Wis. Stat. § 125.075(1) is proven when a defendant is shown to have “procure[d] alcohol beverages for … [one or more persons who are] under 18 years of age,” if the defendant “knew or should have known that the underage person[s were] under the legal drinking age” and an “underage person [who was under eighteen when provided the beverages] dies … as a result.”

Also mentioned in passing by the court: “although the victim of the crime must be under eighteen, it is not necessary that the defendant knew or should have known that the persons for whom alcohol beverages were procured were ‘under 18 years of age’; the required knowledge is that the persons were ‘under the legal drinking age,’ i.e., under the age of twenty-one,” ¶12 n. 3. The court also recognizes that liability doesn’t attach where the underage person is “accompanied by his or her parent, guardian or spouse who ahs attained the legal drinking age,” ¶17 n. 4.

 

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