What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws
…how is the average parent expected to do the right thing?
The story of Providence Police Chief Col. Dean Esserman and the graduation party he supervised this weekend is — yet again — a cautionary tale for parents and legislators. When a law is so poorly conceived and written that no one knows how to obey it, not even members of the police force, who is the greater threat to public safety: the often well-meaning but hapless person charged or the lawmakers who championed and passed it?
The hubbub started when Dan McGowan, intrepid investigative news reporter for Providence, Rhode Island’s GoLocalProv News, reported on an underage drinking party Friday night at the home of Providence Police Chief Col. Dean Esserman. McGowan or another GoLocalProv News reporter staked out Esserman’s house during the party and interviewed guests as they left. Who tipped GoLocalProv and why remains a mystery.However, based on the community comments on the article, Esserman appears to be a polarizing figure in the community.
Local television station WPRI Eyewitness News swiftly picked up the story and got Esserman’s statement and the statement of a Providence councilman calling for Esserman’s suspension while the situation is investigated. Not to be left behind in the essential art of finger-pointing without evidence or objective data, the other council members hurried to make their pronouncements. Even the Executive Director of the Rhode Island Chapter of MADD, Gabrielle Abbate, wishes to play Nancy Drew, telling the GoLocalProv News reporter she wants to “look into additional details regarding possible impaired driving incidents” before making a judgment. I didn’t realize MADD gave its executive directors detective’s shields.
Rhode Island’s Social Host Law was passed in 2006. It penalizes any “person” who provides or permits underage alcohol consumption on their property. Its standard of proof is defined as “any form of conduct, that would cause a reasonable person to believe that permission or approval has been given.”
Considering the council members’ and the public’s comments, I’m left wondering where we might find a reasonable person in Providence.
To learn more:
Exclusive: Underage Drinkers at Chief Esserman’s Home – June 11, 2011 – GoLocalProv News – Byline: Dan McGowan
Underage drinking at chief’s home – June 11, 2011 – WPRI Providence, RI – Byline: Ted Nesi
Esserman Fallout: Providence Council Reacts – June 13, 2011 – GoLocalProv News – Byline: Dan McGowan