Few Charged Under R.I. Social Host Law to Curb Teen Drinking

December 10, 2007

Only three people have been charged so far under a Rhode Island law intended to deter parents from permitting underage drinking at their homes, according to a review of court records.

The General Assembly last year passed the so-called “social host” law, which allows for parents to be fined up to $1,000 if they are at home when teens are drinking at their house. A third offense is a felony.

The law was inspired by the 2002 driving death of a Barrington teen who police say had been drinking at a house party. The police were unable to charge the mother who had hosted the party.

Only three parents have been charged under the law, and no one has been charged this year, according to a Providence Journal review of court records.

“Kids are still drinking, but they’re being more discreet,” said Barrington Police Chief John LaCross. “We do have house parties, but the parents are not in the house. The parents are away for the weekend.”

Teen drinking has received attention recently with the alcohol-related boating death of a Barrington teen in July. A 16-year-old boy died last month in a car crash, and prosecutors say the driver and other teens had been drinking before the crash.

In one incident last year, a Lincoln woman, Barbara E. O’Neil, was fined $350 after police found beer at her 15-year-old daughter’s house party. A police report says O’Neil tried to hide beer cans and asked police whether they needed to report it.

“I said that out of fear,” O’Neil told the Journal. “It was a nightmare. If it was in your home, your daughter, wouldn’t you want to protect your daughter and discipline your daughter yourself? Wouldn’t you want to handle it yourself.


Information from: The Providence Journal, http://www.projo.com/

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