Underage Drinking happens. We all know it. We also know that it is illegal, and most of us will not, either for moral, ethical, or legal reasons, purchase alcohol for minors. There is a big difference between supporting something and acknowledging that it happens.
Police recently responded to a house party that was attended by over three hundred teens, and the police found alcohol flowing and marijuana burning, which are not so outside of the norm for an underage drinking party. In mostsituations like this, I am sure that the police expect to find that the owners of the home were gone, and the teenage child took advantage of the empty home to throw a bash. In this case, police allege that the 54-year-old homeowner and father was partying with the kids. According to the police, when they confronted the father, the drunk and belligerent man stated ""Ain't nothing wrong with kids drinking and smoking dope in my house."
Underage Drinking Leads to Furnishing Alcohol to Minors Charges
The man and his wife were arrested and charged with misdemeanor offenses of Furnishing Alcohol to Minors, Corruption of Minors, and Disorderly Conduct. Some people may wonder whether or not the police can prove that the man actually furnished alcohol to the kids. Do any of the kids actually know who purchased the alcohol? Will any of the kids be willing to testify against the parents and claim that the booze came from the parents? The answers to those questions are immaterial because of the broad definition of the word "furnish" under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6310.1, the Furnishing Alcohol to Minors charge. While most people think of the word as meaning to give or supply, section 6310.6 defines "furnish" as "[t]o supply, give or provide to, or allow a minor to possess on premises or property owned or controlled by the person charged." Therefore, allowing a person to drink underage on your property can result in furnishing charges.
The man is lucky that he was only charged with one violation of Furnishing. In most cases, the sentence is completely determined by a judge, but some laws carry mandatory minimum penalties. Judges are not permitted to impose a sentence that is less than the mandatory minimum. With Furnishing Alcohol to Minors charges, the law states that a first violation faces a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000.00, but the mandatory fine increases to $2,500.00 for each subsequent violation. Given the number of kids attending the party, this man could face paying extremely high fines if he were charged based upon every kid at the party. Wondering why the police didn't file more furnishing charges? In order to find the father guilty, the prosecution would need to prove that the father knew that every single person for which he was charged was under 21. Saying that the father suspected or should have known that a person was under 21 would not be sufficient.
Furnishing Alcohol Is Corruption of Minors
The teens attending the party could have been charged with Underage Drinking under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6308(a), Possession of a Small Amount of Marijuana under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(31), and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia under 35 P.S. § 780-113(a)(32). A person can be charged with Corruption of Minors in Pennsylvania if the person is over 18 and "corrupts or tends to corrupt the morals of any minor less than 18 years of age, or who aids, abets, entices or encourages any such minor in the commission of any crime." By allowing the teens to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol at his house, the father could be convicted of Corruption because a jury could find that his actions, or his inactions, actually aided, abetted, or enticed the teens to engage in criminal activity.
Many non-violent misdemeanor cases like this are resolved by having the person participate in a first-time offender, pretrial diversionary program called ARD. Upon completion of ARD, the charges can be dismissed and then expunged. In this situation, given the fact that the drinking incident involved such a large number of teens and because of the man's lack of cooperation with the police, the district attorney is unlikely to approve ARD in this case. The prosecutor is more likely to vigorously prosecute this case to send a deterrent message that parents cannot host or allow underage drinking to occur at their homes. Hopefully the man makes a good decision at this point and hires an experienced criminal defense attorney to try and obtain the best resolution possible.