With the onset of prom and graduation season, a harsh warning is once again being delivered on the risks of underage drinking. But it's not only being directed at students. A stern message is being sent to parents, too.
Those in the legal community and others who have experienced the devastating consequences of drunken driving firsthand are urging parents to think twice before hosting underage drinking parties or allowing teens to drink in private homes.
They say parents who think it's safer to allow underage drinking under their supervision are mistaken, and only opening the door to a potential nightmare,
"The idea that 'kids are going to drink anyway and they're safer drinking here' is false logic; it's a demonstrably false assumption," said Massachusetts Bar Association President and trial lawyer Richard P. Campbell, a leader in the campaign to bring an end to the epidemic of underage drinking.
"These kids rapidly consume huge quantities of alcohol at these parties because their goal is to get hammered. Anyone who thinks they can control that kind of behavior is crazy."
Furnishing alcohol to minors is a crime in all 50 states. In Massachusetts, furnishing includes not only knowingly or intentionally supplying alcohol to those under 21 who are not the children or grandchildren of those in charge, but also allowing minors to possess alcohol on the premises. Providing the alcohol is no longer the litmus test to illegality, the legal experts say. Letting kids drink, even if the liquor is brought by the party-goers, invokes the criminal statute.
The penalty for violating the state's social host law includes a $2,000 fine, one year in jail or both. In Essex County, parents and others who have violated the law have been charged, prosecuted, found guilty and punished, with some even sentenced to jail time.