April 26, 2007
By Chief Randy Cox, Somerset Borough Police Department
A number of years ago when I was working in another community, my patrol officers received a call to respond to a residence for a noise complaint. It took the officers little time to realize that the incident was actually a rather large underage drinking party. The attendance at the party was pretty impressive, the “A List” of the local high school. The officers were not looking at an impromptu gathering where someone unexpectedly introduced “some” alcoholic beverages. There were two quarter kegs, each a different brand of beer, iced in tubs, and a wide variety of wine and hard liquor displayed in a bar-like setup on the kitchen counter, complete with mixers. Someone had gone to a lot of planning and effort to make this party a hit.
The officers detained the dozens of kids and contacted their parents, asking them to respond to the residence to pick up their kids. It was obvious that a group of high school kids did not procure all that booze on their own. The kids and their parents were advised that the police wanted to know who supplied the alcohol for the party and, in return for that information, would consider citing a kid for Disorderly Conduct instead of Underage Drinking. As was expected, in time nearly every kid attending the party contacted the police and identified the adult who had supplied the party. It turned out to be the woman who was the owner of the house and the mother of the girl who hosted the party. Her daughter was starting her first year in high school and the mother wanted to be sure “she would be popular”. In her mind, the best way to do that was invite all the other “popular” kids to an underage booze party. She figured the cost of the booze was a small price to pay for her daughter fitting in with the “right” group. Unfortunately for her, she paid a much greater price.
In Pennsylvania it is a crime to provide an alcoholic beverage to a person under the age of 21. The mother from the above incident was charged with violating Pennsylvania Crimes Code §6310.1, Selling or Furnishing Liquor or Malt or Brewed Beverages to Minors, and Pennsylvania Crimes Code §6301, Corruption of Minors (how would you like to live the rest of your days with a criminal record containing an offense with that name?) Both Furnishing and Corruption are misdemeanor charges; in addition to the normal penalties for a misdemeanor (which can include jail time); Furnishing carries a mandatory fine of $1000.00 for the first offense and $2,500.00 for each subsequent offense.
So, just how serious a matter is it to furnish alcohol to minors? Look at it this way. It is as serious or more serious in the eyes of the law as are the crimes of Simple Assault, Harassment, Recklessly Endangering Another Person, and Terroristic Threats. Further, there are ramifications we haven’t even discussed here; like civil liability from any resulting injuries or death or property damage.
You wouldn’t do those things to your friends’ and neighbors’ kids, would you? So why would even want to sponsor their kid’s booze party?
This is a project of SomersetCounty Drug Free Communities.
For more information, please call 814-445-6460.