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Parents Guilty for Permitting Drinking in Their Home:

I didn't see the trial, so I don't have an opinion whether the verdict was justified on the facts. But more pertinent to me is what strikes me of the infantilization of people who should be considered adults. According to this news report, the "kid" holding the party was 18 years old. Two "teens" who died in a crash by the parents' driveway were also 18, and they apparently left the party, smoked pot, and then got into an accident when they returned, which surely makes it seem like these kids had access to intoxicating substances regardless of what their friends' parents did:

"This is a case about the disturbing lack of parental responsibility," Fisz said. "These defendants want you to believe they had no idea what was going on in the basement, despite the fact that they were one staircase away the entire night."

Fisz and lead prosecutor Christen Bishop spent much of their closing arguments on blasting the Hutsells for allowing drinking in their home.

"These are not kids who are flying under the radar screen," Bishop said. "These are parents who turned the radar off. They were the weak link in the parenting chain that night."

The Hutsells' defense attorneys, Robert Gevirtz and Elliot Pinsel countered these claims by telling the jury that their clients did not know the teens were drinking and that they never saw alcohol.

Gevirtz told the jury that his client, Jeffery Hutsell was an upstanding person and would not idly sit by and allow kids to drink.

"The only question is did he know (they were drinking)? It's not what he should have done. It's not what he could have done," Gevirtz said. "The kids made their own decisions. They made the decision to drink, they made the decision to go to the car and smoke dope."

You would never know from the quotes from either the prosecutor or the defense attorney that the "kids" involved were eighteen. I recognize that for many purpose, the age of majority is twenty-one, and of course responsible parents shouldn't allow underage drinking in their home, not least because it's illegal and can get them in trouble. But spare me the notion that eighteen year-olds should be considered "kids," passing off responsibility for their actions to "parents."

Smokey:
Message: It's OK for an 18-year old to die for his country, but he's too young to drink.
7.23.2007 1:33pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):

I recognize that for many purpose, the age of majority is twenty-one,


What purposes are these, other than the drinking age?
7.23.2007 1:41pm
e:
Spare me the notion that a homeowner (at home) bears no responsibility for what happens at that home. I'll grant that 18 year old adults live with their choices, but I don't care for the closed eyes school of parenting either. Militaries teach the risk of being the highest ranking individual present, even among adults. I'm glad that parents who quite possibly shirked their duties might learn the same lesson.
7.23.2007 1:45pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
You have to be 21 to buy a handgun in my home state; 18 for long guns.
7.23.2007 1:47pm
Orielbean (mail):
Smokey - didn't they say that during Vietnam at some point? I can't find a related article anywhere...
7.23.2007 1:49pm
CEB:
I'm pretty sure that this has nothing to do with responsibility or maturity and everything to do with insurance policies and deep pockets.
7.23.2007 1:50pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I am another one who does not see the logic behind denying those fighting for us in Iraq and Afghanistan the right to drink. They are adult enough to fight and die for our country, but not to drink.

I also question the logic of holding the parents of 18 year olds liable for their actions. In a previous age, these "kids" would have been married and have had kids. In short, fully adult, including all the responsibilities and rights that go along with that.
7.23.2007 1:51pm
The Ghost of Xmas Past (mail):
Its worse than that... look at how broadly the Prosecutor spoke of parental "duties" (as quoted by the suntimes):

"Parents have a duty not to enable teenagers to break the law," Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Christen Bishop told jurors before they began deliberating. "There's a duty to be vigilant, not to turn a blind eye."


Perhaps they should now go after the deceased teens' parents for failing to supervise their children in the purchase/consumption of marijuana?
7.23.2007 1:51pm
CEB:
D'oh! I see this was a criminal case. Damn this jerky knee of mine.
7.23.2007 1:53pm
bigchris1313 (mail):
I also love how they refer to the gathering as a "drinking party."

What the hell is a "drinking party"? I went to quite a few high school parties in my day, and everyone one of them featured alcohol consumption, but I can tell you that I never went to a so-called "drinking party."

Is the article supposed to make us believe that the sole purpose of going to this party is to drink alcohol? And if so, how does it differ from the infinite number of social events that include the consumption of alcohol in a social environment? When you turn 21 do "drinking parties" just become cocktail parties or dinner parties?
7.23.2007 1:57pm
Bored Lawyer:
The post contains a logical fallacy: because the parents/homeowners have been held responsible, that means that the teenagers are NOT responsible. But that is not the law. Bars are frequently held liable (usually civilly) for selling too much liquor to someone obviously drunk -- even though the drunkard himself can still be held liable.

As per the post, we do not know whether the facts adduced at trial support the charge or not. Assume they do. Why is it so crazy to have a rule that if a homeowner knowingly permits a drunken bacchanalia at his/her house and then someone drives off and gets into a car crash, that the homeowner bears some level of guilt? It does not sound so unreasonable to me. That would be true even if we are speaking about full adults -- all the more so for 18 year olds, who while technically adults are still quite immature.
7.23.2007 2:13pm
dearieme:
I would have been derelict of my duty as a parent if I hadn't ensured that my daughter had had the chance to sip beer or wine, under my supervision, before she was 18.
7.23.2007 2:14pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I did a little digging, apparently the son who hosted the party had two tickets in the previous nine months for minor consumption and parents testified that they didn't see any signs of drinking but three of the attendees testified (and received immunity) that the dad came down three times during the party while they were openly drinking. Also the dad after testifying that he didn't see any signs of drinking had said that he warned the party goers "don't drink and drive." Kind of an odd thing to say unless you knew or suspected that there was alcohol being consumed.
7.23.2007 2:18pm
AntonK (mail):
This is, of course, part and parcel of the infantalization of our society that started roughly in the 1960s, and continues unabated.

Even more egregious than the above example is the Left's use of "our children" to attack the GWOT. "Our Children" referring, naturally, to the 18-45 year old, 280 pound warriors fighting Islamofascism around the world.
7.23.2007 2:25pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
The question of the 18 years old drinking age is firmly related to the incidence of drunk driving by teenagers. The chosen solution was to raise the drinking age to 21 when, magically, the teenagers turned into all-reason, all-the-time adults.

And of course this doesn't work, resulting in cases as the above or a recent one in Virginia in which the parents received lengthy jail terms for permitting underage drinking in their home.

Instead, I think, 18-y/os should be given a choice between which licenses they want to hold: Drinking OR Driving. Any mixing of the two should be harshly punished (I'm also for harsh punishment for adult driving under the influence).

I realize that much of America and American life is built around the automobile. Getting around without a vehicle is tough except in urban environments, and even there (viz. Washington, DC) public transportation isn't sufficient.

But privileges come accompanied by responsibilities, acknowledged or not. Having to choose between drinking or driving is not beyond the abilities of an 18-y/o. Living with the consequences of the choice might be tough, but far better than combining the two privileges.
7.23.2007 2:25pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

I would have been derelict of my duty as a parent if I hadn't ensured that my daughter had had the chance to sip beer or wine, under my supervision, before she was 18.


In my family it was customary for children as young as six to get a small sip of Dad's beer at family gatherings and we were allowed half a glass of wine at Christmas by about age 11 or so. I think the operative words are "under [parental] supervision" which seems to be the problem here. I think the problem for the parents was that they testified that they didn't know there was any alcohol (which was contradicted by the testimony of the three of the teenagers in attendance who received immunity for their testimony) even though their son had been busted twice in the last nine months for minor consumption but warned the attendees not to drink and drive. I thought it was a bit of a stretch to convict them of obstruction of justice for throwing out the empty beer cans and bottles though.
7.23.2007 2:25pm
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
I think the police should be held accountable for having allowed the sale of marijuana within their jurisdiction.

That said, the parents were idiots.
7.23.2007 2:27pm
The Ghost of Xmas Past (mail):
Bored lawyer:

I would argue that the homeowner may have some level of *fault*, but not some level of *guilt*

They didn't purchase or serve the alcohol in question, and the 'lynch mob' is out already on this one... just what we need to save the world more people in jail.
7.23.2007 2:32pm
liberty (mail) (www):
I thought that 21 was just the age when one could drink without parental consent/supervision. (Similar to movie ratings).

So, for example, if kids go out to dinner with their parents and family and they serve wine, the parents can allow the young adults to drink a glass of wine and it isn't illegal, even though the children are under 21. Ditto for religious ceremonies.

This would mean that:

1. This statement is false "of course responsible parents shouldn't allow underage drinking in their home, not least because it's illegal and can get them in trouble."

2. Parents would be liable for whatever happened, since they gave their consent.
7.23.2007 2:35pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Oh, and 21 is also the age when one can purchase alcohol.
7.23.2007 2:36pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I'd have to see the judges' ruling, but my initial impression is that allowing in evidence that the son had priors for alcohol consumption should have been excluded under either 403 or 404 (or state equivalents).
7.23.2007 2:48pm
DiverDan (mail):
Since 18 year olds are "kids", I think it's time to repeal the 26th Amendment, and, while we are at it, prohibit the issuance of driver's licenses to anyone under 21 - Children can do almost as much damage with a Voter's Registration as they can with a Car.

Also, while 21 is NOW the standard drinking age (in THIS Country), people need to remember that not so long ago it was 18 in several states. In 1972, I went to College at Michigan State, where the drinking age was 18 for everything. Even after returning to Illinois for the summer after my freshman year, I could join my high school buddies on a road trip to Iowa (about 60 miles away), where 19 year olds could buy beer. So which is more dangerous, parents allowing some alchohol consumption by 18 year olds in their homes, or a State encouraging teens from neighboring states to drive 60, 80, or 100 miles to the tavern just over the State Line for a night of legal drinking?
7.23.2007 2:52pm
Paul Johnson (mail):
DB, there are any number of ways it could have got in on rebuttal; but I agree that it's the judge's ruling, and not the news accounts, that would help make that determination.
7.23.2007 2:54pm
MPC:
So if an 18 year old drinks and people die as a result, it's the parent's fault. But if a 17 year old in almost every state in the U.S. willfully murder's someone, they are tried as an adult.

Tell me how this makes sense?
7.23.2007 3:02pm
JRL:
"Message: It's OK for an 18-year old to die for his country, but he's too young to drink."

My favorite line on subject of the 21-year old drinking age comes courtesy of Mojo Nixon address the 18-year olds:

"You can get married and [mess] yourself up real good, but you can't buy a beer!"
7.23.2007 3:03pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
I'd have to see the judges' ruling, but my initial impression is that allowing in evidence that the son had priors for alcohol consumption should have been excluded under either 403 or 404 (or state equivalents).


I don't agree, evidence of prior criminal misconduct by the accused can sometimes be excluded if it's used to prove that the accused has committed the crime again but I don't believe FRE 404 prohibits it from being used to prove that the accused (parents) had knowledge of another party's (son's) criminal tendencies. In other words they might be able to use it against the son if he's charged with underage drinking but it wouldn't protect mom and dad from being charged with allowing underage drinking in their home.
7.23.2007 3:06pm
Rich B. (mail):
Change the facts so that the kids are found down in the basement making bombs to use in a terror attack. Parents claim they had no idea, and thought that the kids were just off pursuing religious diversity at the madrassah.

Still think the parents should be let off the hook?
7.23.2007 3:07pm
Jen:
I agree 100% re infantilization of our culture. A couple years ago, I was called by the local police to pick up my then 17 year old at a "drinking party" which he had expressly been denied permission to attend. (He snuck out of the house sometime after midnight). When I got there, another mother was there, having fallen victim to the "you tell my mom I'm spending the night at your house and I'll do the same and then we both sneak out" ploy. What I didn't expect was that the police would give us both the pearl-clutching "WHERE ARE THE PARENTS???" lecture. Uh, I was at home and thought my child was as well, but I was foolish enough to have gone to sleep without handcuffing him to his bed? At what point do teenagers become responsible for their own actions? We're not talking about 5 or 10 year olds here.
7.23.2007 3:08pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Remember that this law is, in all practicality, a federal one. Many states with 21-year-old drinking laws include a provision in their law which will automatically bump the drinking age down to 18 if and when Congress no longer threatens to withhold highway construction funds from states which set the drinking age at 18. Legislators have not made a policy choice to have the drinking age at 21, they've made a policy choice that they would prefer to impinge on the liberty of 19 year olds (not a big voting bloc) rather than forsake hundreds of millions of federal tax dollars.

This is probably a law which should be strictly and harshly enforced, so that it will be repealed more quickly. It is unjust to hold the parents criminally responsible for the activities of the legal adults whom they have no obligation to support (the actual age of majority being 18 in every jurisdiction in this country), and over whom they have no more legal control than they would have over a tenant in their own house.

Sure, the parents have some moral culpability here. They knew their kid had a problem with drinking, they clearly knew their was a bash going on. I went to parties like that in high school myself, and saw similar parents. But one should not be held criminally liable for the acts of another adult, which is what this act does. If the policy generally is that house parties shouldn't exist, then we should likewise hold landlords responsible for their tenants' parties.
7.23.2007 3:17pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
TW, if that's what it's being used for, then it should fail 403--the fact that the parents knew that he had two priors hardly gives them the legal obligaton of supervising his conduct every minute, especially since he is 18 (and thus emancipated). if it was being used to show a pattern of negligence by the parents, then it should fail both 403 and 404. But it's possible, as another commenter noted, that it came in for rebuttal.
7.23.2007 3:19pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
Change the facts so that the kids are found down in the basement making bombs to use in a terror attack. Parents claim they had no idea... Still think the parents should be let off the hook?

Reminds me: were the parents of the Columbine killers held liable for failing to notice their kids were building bombs in the garage, not to mention violating the National Firearms Act by sawing off a shotgun barrel?
7.23.2007 3:19pm
VincentPaul (mail):
I believe that it against IL law for parents (or any person) to give alcohol to minors under any circumstances except in performance of a religious ceremony or service. So, in Illinois, parents cannot "educate" their children by allowing them a sip of beer or a taste of wine even in the safety of the family home.
7.23.2007 3:21pm
The Ghost of Xmas Past (mail):
According to Rich B, and the prosecutor, you should be serving time Jen...

:)
7.23.2007 3:25pm
liberty (mail) (www):
VincentPaul,

I think you are mistaken wrt Illinois, although your point is taken that in some states there is no exception for parental consent.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_drinking_age
7.23.2007 3:27pm
liberty (mail) (www):
To clarify, that map indicates I think (if I am reading it correctly) that in IL if you are both on private property and have parental consent, then there is an exception minimum drinking age of 21.

Other states one or the other is OK; other states neither matters.
7.23.2007 3:30pm
bottoms up! (mail):
Diver Dan is right - it's not so long 20-30 years ago - that most states lowered their drinking and voting ages to 18. The movement for 18-year old majority, rather than the more traditional 21, did have its impetus in the draft and the Vietnam war - if you're old enough to fight, you should be able to vote and to drink.

The entire impetus for a return to 21-year old drinking ages came from MADD - the Mothers Against Drunk Driving - because of the number of teenage alcohol-related driving deaths.

Having grown up in a wine-making family where children drank wine with meals from an early age (and undiluted by the time they were 10-12, usually when they started complaining about the water in their wine), I always thought the 21 year old age was stupid. It was stupid in 1965 and it's stupid today.
7.23.2007 3:30pm
Shinobi (mail) (www):
As someone who was 18 not too long ago let me say that my parents had approximately 0 control over what went on in my life at that time. That is not because they are bad parents, they are good parents who taught me to be responsible for myself, to be independant, and to be successful. If, god forbid, I had been stupid enough to drink and drive and they would have been the first to agree that it was my fault.

I would have been the one who chose to drink, and I would have been the one who chose to get behind the wheel of a car. I would have been old enough to make that decision for myself. No matter how many adults, or friends of mine told me not to, or how many DARE classes I went to, I would still have made that very bad decision.

I know there is this whole theory about how adults somehow have control over 18 year olds, but the thing is, they don't. What they have is the illusion of control. And we can all sit around and pretend that parents somehow have some magical force by which they control their 18 year old kids, but it's just not true.

At 18 if your kid listens to you it is because they recognize what you are saying is correct. If they don't, then it is because 1. they are too stupid to know that you are right, 2. you are wrong 3. they know you are right but think they can get away with it anyway. But beyond telling them not to drink and drive, what exactly are you supposed to do?
7.23.2007 3:34pm
The NJ Annuitant (mail):
People who knowlingly permit under-age drinking ( except by their own children ,under direct parental supervision ) in their home are behaving anti-socially. The issue is, or at least should be, knowledge, actual or constructive.
7.23.2007 3:34pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

I believe that it against IL law for parents (or any person) to give alcohol to minors under any circumstances except in performance of a religious ceremony or service. So, in Illinois, parents cannot "educate" their children by allowing them a sip of beer or a taste of wine even in the safety of the family home.


No, it's allowed:


The possession and dispensing, or consumption by a person under 21 years of age of alcoholic liquor in the performance of a religious service or ceremony, or the consumption by a person under 21 years of age under the direct supervision and approval of the parents or parent or those persons standing in loco parentis of such person under 21 years of age in the privacy of a home, is not prohibited by this Act.
7.23.2007 3:35pm
Toby:
Until the Liddy Dole Highway Rules came into play, NC had 18 for Beer &Wine, 21 for Liquor that always seemed to me more sane than the 21 Hard and Fast rule I grew up with in CA. I also thought the rule in MA (prior to the highway rules) in which the restuarant would put wine glasses all around but would only poutr to those they could card made sense.

THe one that bothers me more, though, is the corrolary that says even though my kids in college are on my medical insuarance, the [medical office] cannot talk to me even to get the insurance billing fixed..."because they are 18"
7.23.2007 3:39pm
Family guy:
How about a few hypotheticals: The "kid" and his guests are 18, and he has his own apartment. Dad drops by, sees them driking and says "Don't drink and drive." Is the father responsible for his son's and his son's guests actions as a "negligent parent"?

Second: The son's landlord drops by, knows the tenant and his guests are 18, and doesn't intervene. Is the landlord guilty?

Second: The son has a job and is renting a room in the parents' basement. Are the parents then responsible?

The conclusion I come to is that the parents don't have the legal authority to prevent their over-18 children or guests from doing anything the children choose. I suppose they could kick the kid out, but how is that considered better parenting? As long as they are not providing the alcohol themselves in violation of the law, I don't see how they can be criminally negligent.

The concept of "in loco parentis" is silly when the "child" is legally an adult.
7.23.2007 3:48pm
plutosdad (mail):
I don't know if anyone noticed, but 3 of the kids involved were arrested on Friday for underage drinking at a party again while the parents were out of town, one of whom was in the car when it crashed. Of course they mostly 19 now. I wonder if they even had a designated driver, or did even their friends' death not teach them anything? No news reports go into how they planned to get home.
7.23.2007 3:52pm
theobromophile (www):

THe one that bothers me more, though, is the corrolary that says even though my kids in college are on my medical insuarance, the [medical office] cannot talk to me even to get the insurance billing fixed..."because they are 18"

...and even though you are paying tuition, you can't get access to any of their academic records, because they are 18.

Not a fan of holding people responsible for the actions of others. Even if 40-year-olds drink and drive home after a cocktail party, the host is still responsible. At bars, the rule makes more sense: a bartender should be trained to note the signs of intoxication, has complete control over the liquor, and is not drinking himself. How on earth we would expect a host or hostess to constantly monitor their guests' alcohol consumption and prevent them from driving home if they drank too much is beyond me.
7.23.2007 3:57pm
Uncle Sam:
Based on the excerpt, the parents were not convicted for being parents. They were convicted for being hosts and knowingly allowing a drunk fest to occur on their property. That's a huge legal distinction.

In closing, the defense lawyer boiled it down to the question, "Did the father know what was going on?" The jury obviously did not find the defendant credible.
7.23.2007 3:57pm
Smokey:
Orielbean:
Smokey - didn't they say that during Vietnam at some point? I can't find a related article anywhere...
IIRC, the debate back then was over the voting vs draft age. 21 to vote; 18 to get drafted.
7.23.2007 4:14pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
This is probably a law which should be strictly and harshly enforced, so that it will be repealed more quickly. It is unjust to hold the parents criminally responsible for the activities of the legal adults whom they have no obligation to support (the actual age of majority being 18 in every jurisdiction in this country), and over whom they have no more legal control than they would have over a tenant in their own house.


Be careful what you wish for -- the Illinois legislature just bumped up the offense for which the parents were convicted from a Class A misdemeanor to a felony. As far as whether it was "unjust" to hold a host responsible for allowing an underage drinking party to occur on the premises, a lot of people disagree with that. For many the actions of the parents (and the kid) were indefensible and they are unwilling to allow the hosts to evade responsibility by deliberately looking the other way. In which case while some may think the laws are unjustly harsh, there appear to be many more who don't think they're strict enough.
7.23.2007 4:21pm
Deoxy (mail):
1. IIRC, the drinking age was raised to 21 to prevent high schoolers from having easy access (many seniors are 18 - you aren't officially kicked out of school, if you can't seem to graduate, until you are 21).

2. The reason we have such an enormous problem with underage drinking is this country is that we thoroughly and harshly forbid it; that is, children have NO exposure to it at all (by law), then, at 21, well... have a good time! That's just plain stupid. In the rest of the world, children may drink whatever their parents allow them to, and a gentle introduction to alcohol (as Thorley Winston portrayed) is fairly common (with most of the rest not needing any introduction, as they are around it constantly from birth).

5. ("Three sire!" "Three!"). I thoroughly second PatHMV's point about "legal adult" and "tenant" issues... when I was in college, I lived at home with my parents during the summers, but I was an adult, responsible for my own behaviour; I did not ask them for permission for any activity, except as it related to them (that is, I bhaved as a good tenant).

4. 18 is the age for voting and buying tobacco (among other things), but "adulthood" is a staged process, which can begin as young as 13 (I knew a 13YO who had successfully filed for separation from her parents, worked after school, and paid for her own apartment - yes, there were extenuating circumstances, and yes, she received some aid money to help with stuff, but she could DRIVE! among other things). Alcohol is restricted until 21... UNLESS you are a soldier, in which case you can buy and consume alcohol on military property starting at 18. You are not FULLY autonomous from your parents until you are *25* (unless you have filed certain legal papers, and even then, it doesn't always stick) - they can get access to your finances, you can consider them as income for the purposes of financial aid for college, etc. It simply isn't one moment.
7.23.2007 4:24pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Not a fan of holding people responsible for the actions of others. Even if 40-year-olds drink and drive home after a cocktail party, the host is still responsible. At bars, the rule makes more sense: a bartender should be trained to note the signs of intoxication, has complete control over the liquor, and is not drinking himself. How on earth we would expect a host or hostess to constantly monitor their guests' alcohol consumption and prevent them from driving home if they drank too much is beyond me.


I'm not an expert in DUI law but I'm guessing that a social host is probably held to something akin to a "reasonable person" standard. They're not held to be a guarantor that none of their guests drink and drive or drink illegally but at the same time they cannot evade responsibility by remaining intentionally ignorant which based on the media accounts, seems to be what the parents in this case did. It's one thing to say that the parents didn't notice someone spiked the punch and another to say that after going down to the party three times they didn't notice their underage guests drinking from beer cans while bottles of Captain Morgan were strewn about the place.
7.23.2007 4:27pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
The reason we have such an enormous problem with underage drinking is this country is that we thoroughly and harshly forbid it; that is, children have NO exposure to it at all (by law), then, at 21, well... have a good time! That's just plain stupid. In the rest of the world, children may drink whatever their parents allow them to, and a gentle introduction to alcohol (as Thorley Winston portrayed) is fairly common (with most of the rest not needing any introduction, as they are around it constantly from birth).


I agree that many people in our society have a problem with alcohol abuse (e.g. binge drinking in college) however most of the laws (such as the one in Illinois) seem to explicitly allow the situation such as in my own upbringing where I got a sip of my Dad's beer at age 6 or the other poster who grew up in a family where even the kids had wine with every meal. I don't think therefore the law really does prevent any parent from giving their child a "gentle [and supervised] introduction to alcohol" because most of the legislatures who have drafted these statues seem to have made a specific allowance for that situation.
7.23.2007 4:44pm
A Guest Of Wind:
The Chicago Tribune's account indicates that they were convicted of two offenses - "one count of endangerment of a child and one count of obstruction of justice for lying to police officers on the night of the accident."

The article mentions a 17-year-old who was at the party, who was probably the "endangered child".

Is obstruction of justice really a crime? I'll have to check to see which way the wind is blowing. Maybe they'll get a pardon.
7.23.2007 4:50pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
It seems that the issue here was more getting some scalps. Note that if AGOW is correct, the prosecution was NOT for the two deaths--that's just what arose the communal ire.

A few points:

1) Kudos to TW for citing the specific "in loco parentis" statute on alcohol. In most states, similar laws exist for members of the family--not sure how many use the "in loco parentis" language.

2) It is ironic that the drinking age went up to 21 in most states after the voting age dropped to 18. Some states had 21 as the drinking age all along and others had differentiated thresholds for beer and other alcohol.

3) The prosecutors whined about a "duty not to enable". I see "enabling" as buying alcohol for the "kids" or allowing them use of the "liquor cabinet"--and even then, one should add "irresponsibly". But merely being present in the house while someone is drinking qualifying as "enabling" is ridiculous.

4) Deerfield is a fairly affluent suburb and I suspect that the families of the kids at the party--including the ones who died--are not poor. This is likely what led to the portrayal of the host family as "villains" and the other parents as "victims". The reality seems to be the opposite, in most cases. By the way, how long was this driveway that the Jetta hit a tree at the end of it with sufficient speed to kill the occupants?

5) MADD was not responsible for the raise in the drinking age--it was merely one of the factors. Insurance companies contributed to that as well. But MADD was responsible for many state laws making the host or a bartender responsible for the actions of a drunk guest. But there has to be a direct connection. This is why the prosecution was not directly for the deaths of the two idiots who were returning to the party.

6) This is not the first case where parents were held liable for the drinking of "kids" in their home. In most other cases, however, the adults actively served alcohol or were directly aware of the consumption and did nothing to stop it. Here, they either did not know or did not want to know.

7) Alcohol does not seem to have been a factor in the crash--even with 0.08 alcohol level, loss of control of the car to the extent of hitting a tree in a driveway is not likely. How stoned were these Darwin Award nominees and how fast were they going?

8) Lesson learned--VW is not a safe car.
7.23.2007 5:23pm
Whadonna More:

Rich B wrote:
Change the facts so that the kids are found down in the basement making bombs to use in a terror attack. Parents claim they had no idea, and thought that the kids were just off pursuing religious diversity at the madrassah.

Still think the parents should be let off the hook?

Yes. The "kids" are in fact emancipated adults. The parents are no more responsible for those "kids" than they are for you.
7.23.2007 5:23pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Almost forgot:

9) Rich B.--no, if parents did not know that their children were terrorists building bombs in their basement and the "kids" made at least some effort to conceal their activity, the parents would not--or, at least, should not--be referred to as "terrorists". See my "enabling" point above.
7.23.2007 5:27pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
Just check the news and got one more:

10) Take a look here. If you thought the Hutsells responsible, after reading this, would you still hold the same opinion?
7.23.2007 5:30pm
DCraig:
So all parenting responsibility stops at age 18? I think the idea that parents aren't responsible for dealing with an alcohol dependent 18 year old living in their house is unrealistic.
7.23.2007 5:32pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Alcohol does not seem to have been a factor in the crash--even with 0.08 alcohol level, loss of control of the car to the extent of hitting a tree in a driveway is not likely. How stoned were these Darwin Award nominees and how fast were they going?


According to this story, the driver's blood alcohol level was 0.132.
7.23.2007 5:36pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
TW, 0.132 appears correct--the first story where I picked up the 0.08 figure probably cut the "above" from 0.08 in editing.

The location of the tree also bothers me--one story referred to the crash as being "nearly a block away" from the house, which means that the tree was not in the driveway. Aside from that, the comments on Deerfield stand.
7.23.2007 5:54pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

This article on the toxicology report suggests that the driver didn't have any marijuana in his system but the passenger who was killed did. Also I apparently missed this detail but the son who hosted the party (the primary instigator) was one of the three prosecution witnesses who was granted immunity for testifying against his parents. I suspect the "emancipated" son may soon be the "disowned" son.
7.23.2007 5:54pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):

The location of the tree also bothers me--one story referred to the crash as being "nearly a block away" from the house, which means that the tree was not in the driveway. Aside from that, the comments on Deerfield stand.


I've never been to Deerfield but almost all of the articles I've read place the tree at the end of the driveway or described it as being "feet away from the house." Could they have one of those long driveways like some people in the country do?
7.23.2007 5:57pm
bigchris1313 (mail):

By the way, how long was this driveway that the Jetta hit a tree at the end of it with sufficient speed to kill the occupants?


Funny. I was thinking the same thing.
7.23.2007 5:57pm
happylee:
The negligence analysis is interesting but entirely beisdes the point. The trial was a criminal trial.

A criminal trial is an expression of the State's power to monopolize the administration of "justice" in our fine land. The defendant is a citizen and the prosecuting party is the State. The argument was that the parents refused to be tools of the state. To that my response would have been, well, think of the slang term commonly used today (especially in heated discussions) that begins with "F" and ends in "U."

I would have argued jury nullification and the ninth amendment prohibits the Federal Gov't from using its power to force States to adopt laws that abridge the rights of its citizens. (All states had to raise legal limit for drinking because a bunch of nimrods in DC decided that was the way to "save lives." Of course, statistics show otherwise, but since when does anyone in DC - aside from Ron Paul - care about the truth?

As for the two boys, their death reminds me of something a teacher told me once. He said having me around was a blessing because whenever he wanted to make a point of what NOT to do, he could just point to me and my actions. Hooray. Anyway, these two Darwin Award Winnters have probably saved quite a few lives. Their fine example will motivate teenage dopers to exercise a little restraint around trees.

I hope Gore delivered a stirring eulogy for the tree.
7.23.2007 6:05pm
Amy (mail) (www):
I recently turned 19. What annoys me most is people assuming that 18 year-olds are completely stupid and incapable of making their own decisions. I know of 40 year-olds who have gotten behind the wheel of a car after drinking. Stupidity isn't reserved to the young.

My parents can't control me now, nor could they then. They can tell me not to do something, or perhaps throw me out of the house or something similiar, but if I choose to drink, I made that choice.

If I can vote on laws that involve alcohol, vote for politicians who make rules on alcohol, get married, drive, enroll in the military, and pay taxes to enforce these laws... then why can't I drink?

Yes, drinking and driving, it's awful, etc, etc, but to me, the issue is that driving is a privilege and instead we need to make sure that if someone gets a DUI, just ONCE then they will never drive again. Period. Instead of baby-sitting legal adults.
7.23.2007 6:12pm
Family guy:
Dcraig,

Are you talking about moral responsibility or legal responsibility. Legally, the parents could kick an alcohol-dependent 18-year old out into the street. Perhaps the unintended consequence of prosecutions such as this is that parents now have a incentive to do so, because they will not be charged with criminal negligence for the actions of their adult children.
7.23.2007 6:39pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
On the subject of the tree, you can, thanks to the all-seeing eye of the GoogleSats, see the neighborhood for yourself, here. My bet would be that the young people drove into the tree on the corner there, as they were turning onto the street. The driveway itself is a very standard, short driveway. (Note: I'm assuming this is them; it's the address result from searching for Jeffrey Hutsell, Deerfield, IL in Google. Perhaps there is another Jeffrey Hutsell, or perhaps they've moved since the accident.)
7.23.2007 6:44pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
That's definitely them. This story says they live on Summit Drive.
7.23.2007 6:45pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Nice work PatHMV. How on Earth did people discuss criminal trials before the internet? ;)
7.23.2007 6:53pm
Porkchop:
DCraig wrote:


So all parenting responsibility stops at age 18? I think the idea that parents aren't responsible for dealing with an alcohol dependent 18 year old living in their house is unrealistic.


I would guess that you don't have any 18-20 year olds living in your house. A parent can't REQUIRE an 18 year old to do anything -- they are legally adults. You CAN use "My way or the highway" if things are really, really bad, but that's not usually the most desirable (or effective) way to handle matters.
7.23.2007 7:06pm
Mark F. (mail):
The absurdity of a 21 year old drinking age has much to do with the Feds threatening to cut off highway funds to states which set their drinking age lower than 21--all have, unfortunately, given in to this legal blackmail.
7.23.2007 7:24pm
R. G. Newbury (mail):
The question: What do you do when your 18 year old son wants to hold a party at your house, and you recognize that alcohol willed present?

The answer: Leave home for the night, since if some rabid idiot prosecutor learns (by giving immunity to the son, and tricking the evidence out of him) that you, the parents, knew that adults were drinking downstairs, YOU will get screwed. But if you were 40 miles away, drinking cocktails with friends and playing bridge, or spin the bottle, YOU cannot be held liable....

Of course, if it gets out of hand, you are not there to stop the house being trashed....Remember 'Risky Business'?

Anyone want to bet, BTW, that the son was given immunity concerning HIS having given drinks to the dead driver (not a crime anyway) and the son let it slip that dad had come downstairs... The police are not your friend, nor is a prosecutor.
7.23.2007 7:40pm
Snappers:
e @ 12.45pm above:

Do the parents of the negligent teenage driver also bear some responsibility? According to your logic, I would say so. Were they asked how many times they told their child not to drink? Not to drink and drive? To call them if they were intoxicated and needed a safe ride home? Even if the answer is 100, 500 or 1,000 times - they cannot control the actions of their child.

If the teenage adult driver of the car had survived the crash, he would be the one facing criminal prosecution. But he didn't and now the Hutsells have been convicted of a crime. This is a tragedy, but I fail to see the criminal negligence.

Where is the <i>personal responsibility</i> of the driver and passengers in this case? The others in the car chose to drive with this person, despite his drinking. They left, smoked some pot and were returning to the party when the driver's negligence caused grave results.

So why are the Hutsells criminally negligent for a legal adult's (and his passengers') mistake?

With regards to the (usually) civil cases of bars/patrons - there is a large difference between intoxication and rip-roaring drunk. You can easily assess the latter, the former is much more difficult. There is a huge difference when serving customers between people who are drinking and people who can barely stand straight/pronounce a drink correctly, etc.

Question: Do we know whether more drinking was done between leaving the house party, smoking the doobs and returning?
7.23.2007 7:45pm
Gaius Marius:
Congress should pass a law whereby anyone 18 or older who is convicted of driving while under the influence shall be drafted into the military for a minimum of 4 years in active service with an additional 4 years of reserve duty.
7.23.2007 8:08pm
Hattio (mail):
Nothing substantive to add....but Robert Gevertz was a hell of a trial advocacy teacher for me.
7.23.2007 10:24pm
VincentPaul (mail):
liberty,
Thanks for the correction. I had Googled, but I did not do a thorough job.
7.23.2007 10:28pm
Zoe E Brain (mail) (www):
I apparently missed this detail but the son who hosted the party (the primary instigator) was one of the three prosecution witnesses who was granted immunity for testifying against his parents. I suspect the "emancipated" son may soon be the "disowned" son.

If it was my boy, of course I would have encouraged him to, nay, insisted that he gain immunity at my expense! It's not as if there was any great moral fault, and in most parts of the civilised world, there would be no technical crime either.

It's not a case of "letting him face the consequences of his own actions in the hope that he will be rehabilitated from his folly". It's about "Hmmm... some jail time for me, or having my son's life irretrievably blighted by a law that is brain-dead questionable?". Not exactly a tough choice.

The fact that the parents had to consider this kind of thing makes the whole situation even more morally repugnant. "Disgusting" is not too strong a word. In a wider context, it breeds disrespect for the law too, something that is never good.
7.24.2007 2:06am
theobromophile (www):
Zoe,

Good point, although you aren't considering the effects upon other siblings. If the teenager has younger siblings who are not of age, then the parents' incarceration would harm the other child - who, be it noted, did nothing wrong. Would you want your kid in foster care?

(Of course, the fact that one would have to consider such nonsense underscores the point in your last paragraph.)
7.24.2007 2:20am