New law makes parents liable for children's alcohol abuse

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

A new law passed on Aug. 28 hopes to make it easier to prosecute parents whose children are holding parties where those children are drinking alcohol.

Specifically, the new law says parents have to stop any alcohol consumption that is going on in their home as soon as they discover it.

The law says, "Anyone who owns or occupies the property who allows any person under 21 to consume intoxicating liquor on their property or who knowingly fails to stop any person under 21 from consuming alcohol on their property is guilty of a class B misdemeanor," Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morely Swingle said.

It also means that if a parent gets a hotel room for their teens for an after-prom gathering, they are still liable under that statute.

"This statute is aimed at parents or older brothers or other people who are allowing a party to go on where people are consuming alcohol," Swingle said.

If the parents honestly don't know their children were consuming alcohol, they aren't liable under the new statute, but they may still be liable for endangering the welfare of a child or criminal negligence.

Also under the new Abuse and Lose law, minors who are in possession of alcohol lose their license for 30 days in addition to whatever happens to them in criminal court, even if they were not driving at the time.

Under the new law, police do not need to catch the minor in actual possession, if the minor has a blood alcohol level of .02 or higher, or is "visibly intoxicated," they can be convicted.

"The legislature has made it easier to prove that minors were possessing alcohol, they've made it tougher on parents and made it easier to prove that parents or other adults have supplied alcohol to a minor," Swingle said.

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