Court Battle Ahead

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Court Battle Ahead

04/01/2002
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ohio-based SuperAmerica is suing the city of Burnsville, Minn., for suspending the tobacco license of one of its convenience stores for selling cigarettes to minors.

The case could test the limits of a 1997 state law and local ordinances that punish retailers for selling tobacco to minors, the Associated Press reported.

Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, the Enon, Ohio-based operator of more than 2,300 convenience stores, claims the $10,000 fine and one-year suspension of the store's privilege to sell tobacco were excessive, arbitrary and unconstitutional. It says the suspension, which took effect March 4, could put the store out of business. About $460,000, or 20 percent, of its 2001 sales came from tobacco.

The company argues in its complaint that the penalties violate the constitution's ban on excessive fines, which is part of the same amendment that bans cruel and unusual punishment, the report said.

Burnsville police caught clerks at the store selling cigarettes to minors five times in two years. The company was fined several hundred dollars for each of its first three violations. State law mandates a minimum $250 penalty and a seven-day license suspension for a company's third violation. Communities must conduct compliance checks annually.