Friday, May 22, 2009

Providing Alcohol To Minors . . . . It's NOT Worth It

In this season of high school graduation and the family celebrations and party's that follow, the issue inevitably arises over whether or not parents or other individuals over the age of 21 should be providing alcohol to minors. During these debates, without a doubt, one parent will always respond "they are going to do it anyway, I'd rather have them do it in my basement where I can keep them from driving." While this response is understandable, it is mislead and is the beginning of a recipe for disaster. The risk in these situations far outweighs any benefit that could conceivably be achieved.

Every year around this time the news is filled with stories of high school graduates that are tragically killed in car accidents in which alcohol was involved. Often times the alcohol turns out to be provided by a parent operating under the same theory as set forth above. Regardless of how watchful or vigilant a "supervising" parent may be, teenagers are that much more creative in ultimately doing their own thing and avoiding detection. The idea that a parent can successfully watch a group of teenagers who are drinking and prevent them all from driving, if that is indeed what they want to do, is nothing short of naive. The only responsible parenting is to not provide alcohol to minors, regardless of the setting, and to further keep an even more watchful eye on our own children, knowing that the potential consequences are tragic and permanent.

In case the distinct possibility of tragic premature loss of life is not enough to prevent "cool parents" from providing alcohol to minors, the laws criminalizing this behavior have recently been beefed up. Just the act of providing alcohol to a minor is a Serious Misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, and a minimum fine of $500 which can be as high as $1,875. If serious injury results from the provision of alcohol to a minor, the offense becomes an Aggravated Misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of up to 2 years and a fine of up to $6,250. Finally, if death occurs, the offense becomes a Class D Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $7,500. Prison sentences are routinely handed out on these cases regardless of the Defendant's prior criminal history or status within the community.

Finally, if death or injury does result from providing alcohol to a minor, a costly civil suit will also likely follow the criminal prosecution. Bottom line is that it is not worth it! Lets have a safe and festive graduation season without putting our recent graduates in situations where tragedy is likely to follow.

1 comment:

allen.porter said...

Community attitudes go a long way toward shaping our youth. In counties where teenage drinking and driving occurs most frequently, community standards lean toward the "They'll do it anyway, so I make sure they do it at home" attitude.

Clearly, this is the opposite approach that should be taken. If a parent hands a joint to their teenager, it is considered child endangerment. Giving your teenager a beer should carry the same weight.