Underage Drinking & the Law

What parents need to know now about the new Social Host Laws

A weird week in underage drinking?

This weekly roundup in underage drinking news leaves us with more questions than answers.

Justin Bieber plays beer pong?

Maybe our little boy singer is growing up and making mistakes, but is everything reported about him the truth? Last week, we heard he had too much pasta and milk before performing and ended up vomiting onstage. Any parent could have warned him about that. Now, photos from last year – unearthed by TMZ yesterday – purportedly show him playing beer pong. Really? While we have zero verifiable information if he drinks too much beer or milk, the awkward looking photograph of a 17-year-old Bieber, wearing a hat, a half-zip fleece and a backpack only shows him looking at a bunch of red plastic cups on a ping-pong table while a half-naked unidentified man in the foreground holds the single beer shown. While it appears a beer pong game was in progress, nothing in the evidence demonstrates Bieber was playing.

Is a parent who hosts a 15-year-old’s birthday party responsible when one party crasher stabs another?

In November 2006, a 15-year-old’s birthday party with a half-dozen invited guests turned into a free-for-all when it was crashed by up to fifty uninvited teens, including warring gang members. Although the mom, Elizabeth Cumba, intervened to stop a fight that began in her basement, even personally marching the young man off her property to send him home, her attempts to control the situation were fruitless. Hiram Colon Jr., 17, stepped back onto the property to continue the argument, was chased by six teens, who police identified as East Hartford gang members, onto a neighbor’s property and was fatally stabbed.

According to Lawyers USA, Cumba had successfully defended herself against a wrongful death lawsuit by Colon’s estate. Now, “a state appeals court just ordered a new trial, finding the jury in her first trial decided the case under the wrong premises liability standard.” What that means is the Connecticut appeals court decided the original judge’s instructions to the jury were overly narrow in defining the law.

What makes matters worse is that none of the six youths who assaulted Colon received jail time. According to judicial abuse blogger Steven G. Erickson, who followed the case closely in his Stark Raving Viking blog, they were all offered a plea deal. Meanwhile, Colon’s mother is left to mourn a child who died too young and Cumba, the mom who tried to get Colon to leave before the situation disintegrated, heads back to court. Like many parental nightmares, this one is set on repeat.

Murphy, Pat. “Benchmarks: Social host faces liability for fatal stabbing.” Lawyers USA 26 Sept. 2012. General OneFile. Web. 10 Oct. 2012.

Why does an Assistant US Attorney gets a second chance we wouldn’t be offered?

Video Link: Channel 9WSYR – ABC

In Casenovia, NY, it seems that the social host law is so confusing, even Assistant US Attorney Craig Benedict didn’t understand how to protect his family and himself from the 100 to 200 teens who took over the family’s 25 acres at a graduation party the Benedicts threw for their son. Photos from the party available on Instagram and social media messages intercepted afterwards by the police, indicated the teens planned to drink and “party” fully. That was in July. Now, a special prosecutor assigned to the case said that the case against Craig Benedict “will likely be dismissed if he stays out of trouble.” Special treatment or professional courtesy?

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