Monday, June 11, 2007

A Cautionary Tale

August 2002, in Albemarle County Virginia, Elisa Kelly and her ex-husband, George Robinson, hosted a 16th birthday party for their son Ryan. Assuming the party-goers were going to drink alcohol regardless of parental admonitions, Elisa and George made a deal with Ryan. First, the party would be held at the Robinson property on a remote road in Earlysville, Virginia. Second, Ryan's mom would buy the beer and serve it at the party provided no one would leave the party after drinking. Additionally, Ryan's mom would collected the car keys from the under aged guests and required all the party-goers to spend the night and not drive anywhere.

The result? Both Elisa Kelly and George Robinson were charged with 16 misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Both plead guilty to nine counts and were sentenced to 8 years in prison by the judge, even though the prosecutor, James Camblos, had recommended a 90 day sentence. On appeal to the Virginia Circuit Court, the sentences were reduced to 27 months apiece. Those sentences were upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court.

The Lesson? This story is a cautionary tale for parents if they plan to serve alcohol to their under aged children and friends. Although a 27 month sentence may seem excessive, parents are increasingly being held criminally responsible for under aged drinking in their homes - even though they were not aware of it.

In Texas, it is a Class A misdemeanor offense to provide alcohol to a minor, except when a minor's adult parent, guardian, spouse, or adult whose custody the minor has been committed by a court provides the alcohol and the adult is visibly present when the minor possesses or consumes the alcohol. Alcoholic Beverage Code, sec. 106.06; 106.05. If convicted the maximum fine is $4000.00 and the maximum possible jail time is one year. A person can be prosecuted separately for each minor they had provided alcohol.

In college towns, like College Station, Texas - home of the Fightin' Texas Aggies - law enforcement have taken a hard line against under aged drinking. Prosecutors will not hesitate to pursue a case against a parent for supplying alcohol to drinkers under 21 years of age. Even though a parent may provide alcohol to their minor children - they cannot provide alcohol to their under aged friends. So please be careful.

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