A cautionary tale about teen drinking

Dateline: Sat 09 Jun 2007

Thanks to the reader with a keen interest in the law who sent the following story from today's Washington Post, about a Virginia mom and her husband who each will serve 27 months in jail. Their crime? They provided alcohol to her son and his friends at his 16th birthday party.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/08/AR20070608027

95.html

The story is illustrative of the vigor with which some law enforcement agencies are pursuing adults who supply booze to kids. The news hook for us in Indiana is the party hosted by former Colts QB Jack Trudeau for graduates of Park Tudor. The party was held at Trudeau's Zionsville home; when police arrived, they found teens drinking beer, wine, etc. Trudeau faces felony charges.

Here are some excerpts from the Washington Post story that are telling:

"In this season of senior proms and graduation parties, the story of the couple is a cautionary tale for parents if they plan to serve alcohol -- or look the other way. It comes at a time of increased concern about the effects of drinking and driving and underage binge drinking, which is on the rise. Although 27-month sentences are rare, parents are increasingly being held criminally responsible for underage drinking under their roofs, even if they are not aware that it is going on."

Based on the Washington Post story, the Virginia mom and her husband were as conscientious as parents could be in this setting. They bought the alcohol, they provided a safe setting for the kids, and they collected car keys. Nobody was hurt. But the law came down hard on the couple, which has created a huge emotional hardship for the woman's son, now 20 years old. He tearfully told the Post that he wished he could serve the sentence for his mother.

Another aspect of this story is that the mother had no criminal record, not even a parking ticket. She and the boy's stepfather were originally sentenced to 8 years in prison after being charged with nine misdemeanor counts of serving alcohol to minors.

Zero tolerance is today's mantra -- a far cry from the past. When my children were young, our pediatrician, Dr. Michael Hogan, mentioned that one of his sons learned to drink beer with the Jesuits when they came to the family home for dinner. He saw nothimg wrong with it, either.

That attitude won't fly anymore. And by the way, Trudeau is being made an example of now, but when my daughter was at Brebeuf Jesuit Prep School, a daughter of former Vice President Dan Quayle was among kids busted at a beer/etc party at a Zionsville horse barn. That story was pretty much hushed up, at least in terms of who the well-off attendees were (parents were also present).

No more. Trudeau may have to pay the price for a long history of law-breaking. But is it right?

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