What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws
GoLocalProv.com’s exclusive — publishing Providence Police Chief’ Col. Dean Esserman’s daughter’s Facebook BYOB and pot invite — is an excellent example of why good parents should fight to prevent or remove bad Social Host Laws.
The rest of us are instructed to call the police if we discover minors drinking at a gathering in our home. The predicament for law-abiding and moral parents is that innocence is unimportant when a broad Social Host Law is on the books. You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t call the police for help. There are good reasons to get the police involved, especially to prevent drunken teens from driving away and possibly harming themselves or others.
However, once the police arrive, the game of Who’s the Social Host begins. The choice is simple for the police and the DA: you or your child. The winner gets stiff fines and the possibility of jail time. The additional ramifications last a lifetime. For a minor they range from losing the college acceptance or scholarship to spending the rest of her life checking “yes” to the criminal clause on job applications. For adults, you can lose custody of the younger children if you’re divorced. If you’re a licensed professional (doctor, lawyer, pharmacist, dentist) or a public servant (town council, school board, politician, community activist), it can be a career-ender. Remember, you don’t have to buy, serve or knowingly permit drinking in your presence to be charged as a Social Host. You just have to be the person in control of the premises
We must assume that as police chief, Esserman knew all sides of this dilemma. He chose to ignore his own department’s advice. He didn’t call the police for assistance. He didn’t take away the guests’ car keys. He didn’t call their parents.
I am NOT suggesting that Esserman’s current legal and PR morass is his daughter’s fault. It can be equally ascribed to his preexisting polarizing public persona and the glee with which certain reporters and council members are targeting him for retirement.
However,Esserman’s predicament as a father is simple. According to Rhode Island’s Social Host Law, either he knowingly permitted underage alcohol consumption or his daughter did. I don’t know what choice he will make.
What would you do?
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