updated 4/26/2006 4:48:27 PM ET 2006-04-26T20:48:27

Whether or not they're holding an alcoholic beverage in their hands, minors who show signs of intoxication are eligible for prosecution under an ordinance that goes into effect next month in Cass County.

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Cass County is the first county in Nebraska to allow the prosecution of minors who are "exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol" while in a public place or inside a vehicle.

Police do not have to collect alcohol containers from an intoxicated offender in order to prosecute, as is customary under current state law.

The law doesn't apply if the minor is with a parent or guardian or has consumed alcohol in connection with a religious service or for medicine.

Cass County Attorney Nathan Cox said he thoroughly researched his proposal and that it was well-received by local government bodies across the county.

All five county board members supported Cox's initiative, which is modeled after a law in the state of Washington.

"We're letting parents know, 'Hey, step up ... and take responsibility for your children,'" Cox said.

Nebraska law says, "No minor may sell, dispense, consume or have in his or her possession or physical control any alcoholic liquor."

Cass County's ordinance would not change a state provision that allows minors to drink in their own homes.

"This is a very aggressive and up-and-coming county, and I see nothing wrong with us being the first," county commissioner Lou Allgayer of Elmwood said.

Commissioner Bob Clancy of Plattsmouth said he had received a number of calls from constituents in recent months after Cox's proposal was made public.

"It's nothing but total support for it," Clancy said.

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