Drink Free or Die (Hiccup!)

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When the porcupines behind the Free State Project finally take over New Hampshire, here's a law they can go after in the Granite State:

The way the law works now in New Hampshire…minors can be arrested for what is colloquially called "internal possession" of alcohol, to the point of being intoxicated. In a break with legal tradition, an underage person with drinks in his or her system often faces the same charge as one with a drink in hand.

Similar statutes are now on the books in a handful of other states. Together, they've taken the campaign against underage drinking to a place it has rarely been before: down the gullet and into the bloodstream of teenage imbibers. But they have also spawned criticism from some legal scholars, who say the laws are pushing the definition of a real possession charge.

"When the law makes the offense simply a biological fact, of simply having a certain chemical in one's body, that steps over a line in the law that has been traditionally accepted," said Richard J. Bonnie, a law professor at the University of Virginia who has studied underage drinking.

(Note to self: Give Prof. Bonnie a call; I studied underage drinking for years but never thought to turn it into a job.)

Here's one sob-burp-and-hiccup story that really tugs at the heartstrings (at least if you're Foster Brooks or the Rigoberta Menchu of lushes, James Frey):

"I really had no idea you could get arrested for that," said Chris Cormio, 20, a Massachusetts native now attending Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Last February, he drank two beers, then set out on foot for a police station to bail out a friend. Cormio said he had brushed his teeth to get rid of the alcohol smell, but an officer noticed something amiss.

"Where I'm from," Cormio said, "they take you home when that happens to you."

Indeed, especially if you live on Gin Lane. Two beers immediately before going to bail out a friend? I'm thinking Cormio's going have some trouble on his midterm exams.

But an outrage is an outrage and this crackdown on "internal possession" is, says the Wash Post, spreading like a spilled bottle of sloe gin, to South Dakota, Vermont, Utah, and Missouri (Missouri loves company, yes, but not if you're a sloshed teen).

Whole tale of sudsy woe here.

NEXT: Because It's There

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  1. Then, what about “internal possession” of evil thoughts?

  2. Oh man that’s scary. Cancel that cotton dubie, I’m hitting the sauce.

  3. Internal possession?

    Yeah, and TN has actually instituted a tax on illegal drugs.

    Click for WBIR story

    Tennessee “Crack Tax” brings in nearly $2 million in first year

    During its first year, Tennessee’s “Crack Tax” has brought in nearly
    $2 million dollars in state revenue.

    The illegal substances tax went into effect last January.

    Basically, drug dealers are supposed to pay taxes on illegal drugs and alcohol.

    They pay confidentially, and when they do, they get a stamp.

    If they’re caught without the stamp, they’ll be prosecuted for not
    only selling drugs, but for not paying their taxes too.

    All money made from the stamps goes to fighting drugs.

    Amanda Dill , Producer
    Last updated: 1/24/2006 4:55:27 PM

  4. I always wondered why they didn’t do this already. I assumed it was because they needed a warrant (or thought they did) to give a (non-driving*) person a breath or blood test.

    Do they need a warrant?

    If they do, then it probably means that these state laws will not be much enforced. This is one of those issues where the judicial branch may save us from a small margin of tyranny.

    FOOTNOTE

    * The legal analysis for drivers is different because driving is a privilege, driving implies consent, etc, etc.

  5. This is all too true in VT – on the way back from our rugby formal, our bus was pulled over and a friend of mine (underaged) was arrested for possession by intoxication. To be honest was pretty drunk, to the blackout point probably, but not sick.

    He woke up in the hospital the next day with a catheter and a $2000 bill for rehydration and a battery of narcotics tests.

  6. Ah, Gin Lane…it’s been a while since I’ve strolled down your path.

    “The Rigoberta Menchu of lushes” – *chuckle*

  7. Rigoberta Menchu of lushes, James Frey

    Yeah, but at least Frey isn’t likely to get a Nobel prize.

  8. If their bill passes, police would no longer have to determine whether a young person has drunk enough to be intoxicated — any alcohol consumption at all would be enough for a charge.

    Our police truly have too much time on their hands.

  9. “Basically, drug dealers are supposed to pay taxes on illegal drugs and alcohol.

    They pay confidentially, and when they do, they get a stamp.

    If they’re caught without the stamp, they’ll be prosecuted for not
    only selling drugs, but for not paying their taxes too.”

    I’m having trouble comprehending this one, but I know it’s outrageous.

  10. Tangentially related:

    While I was an undergrad at UNH, they cracked down on campus drinking parties (appears they got highly ranked by Playboy one year, and that just couldn’t do…). Now, the ‘town’ that UNH is in had 1 bar that got so crowded that you might not ever make it to the bar during the night.

    The next year, the local paper breathlessly reported that serious accidents on the road from Portsmouth (where the nearest bars were located) were up like 90% in the last year. Of course, everyone called for a crackdown in Portsmouth, while we drunkards said “Duh”. Thankfully, I went Greek and didn’t need to traverse that gauntlet.

  11. While I was an undergrad at UNH, they cracked down on campus drinking parties

    Back in the day, we smuggled a keg into Williamson and ran the tap through a hole in the wall.

  12. alright….drunk teenagers in NH! add a bunch of pit bull owners and crystal meth-heads and you’ll have a libertarian paradise there, won’t you?

  13. “Back in the day, we smuggled a keg into Williamson and ran the tap through a hole in the wall.”

    We also did that little trick. Of course, now I’m embarrassed, because I think that was my dorm, but I can’t remember. Was Williamson one of the two big tower dorms? With 3 wings, A, B, C?

    I’m remembering Christiansen, I think Williamson and Hubbard in that one area around the dining hall? If I’ve got it right, I was a Williamson 2A resident for 2 fun years.

    Shoo. I’m getting old, if I’m having trouble remembering this stuff…

  14. Any constitutional law gurus out there care to explain why this is legal, or not?

  15. Does this mean that within say 10 or 20 years cops will be doing random drug tests of people and then arresting those who still show signs of THC in their system? Will adults fight back, or will we all consider this an important step in the War on Drugs, which of course is just an extension of the War on Terror, which by then may become some other War?

  16. Back in my day, there was so much drinking that they had special id requirements for weekends. IIRC, those requirements were for Wednesday and Thursday night in addition to Friday and Saturday.

    One of the things that caused an alcohol crackdown was the death of a freshman (Laurie Zerba?) after imbibing too much at a frat party and then falling onto some rocks.

  17. Was Williamson one of the two big tower dorms? With 3 wings, A, B, C?

    Yup. 4A for two years myself.

  18. alright….drunk teenagers in NH! add a bunch of pit bull owners and crystal meth-heads and you’ll have a libertarian paradise there, won’t you?

    Ladies and gentlemen, this threads first troll!

  19. “a police officer told her to ‘blow a kiss in my face’ and smelled her breath for booze.”

    Since when is “blowing a kiss in my face” a law enforcement tool? Julia should hire a good lawyer and sue the Durham police department for sexual harassment.

  20. Thinking about “drug dependency” etc.:

    Does it bother anyone else that after a lifetime of poor living, someone who od’s on drugs or alcohol is always reported as having been killed by the substance?
    Shouldn’t the sentence, “Bob Smith was lost to heroin abuse last night at approximately 3:30 AM” read “Bob Smith died last night at 3:30 AM”?

  21. “alright….drunk teenagers in NH! add a bunch of pit bull owners and crystal meth-heads and you’ll have a libertarian paradise there, won’t you?”

    Yeah, but hopefully they’ll pass a law against angry, weight-lifting juicers.

  22. I seriously wonder how many people still believe the medieval idea that “distilled spirits” are actually “spirits” that possess their imbiber and make their host do crazy things…

    In all honesty, that world view is the only lens through which all this crazy shit makes sense

  23. I seriously wonder how many people still believe the medieval idea that “distilled spirits” are actually “spirits” that possess their imbiber and make their host do crazy things…

    If by “crazy” you mean “awesome”, then sure, I’ll buy it.

  24. Shouldn’t things like this be left in the hands of stuffy, uptight deans and their snivelling student toadie? What NH really needs is for a lovable crew of misfit frat boys to rig up a prank that will flood the entire state with beer, thus showing everyone the error of their ways and causing the prim and proper campus librarian to suddenly let down her hair, throw off her glasses, hike up her skirt, and dance seductively? At least that’s what me, Beef, Scooter, and Chowder would have done.

  25. “Back in my day, there was so much drinking that they had special id requirements for weekends”

    They either started them or started really enforcing them my junior year. Of course, it didn’t effect me nearly as much at that point, because I was living in one of the first floor closets at my fraternity…

    “Yup. 4A for two years myself.”

    Another good one was the beer ball (do they still make/sell those?) we snuck in as a birthday present (in a huge wrapped box with bows and all).

    Some day, I gotta get back up there, although it’s much harder now that the fraternity house is no more…

  26. As a Free Stater who’s already moved, I find this somewhat nauseating. But, that’s the kind of crap I moved to fight, and at least I’ve got some allies here.

    For the record, this isn’t NH’s first triumph in the “most appalling alcohol law” contest. It’s also illegal here for a parent to allow his child to drink–with a stiff fine and possible jail time. Apparently, state legislators prefer to have kids passed out in fields, 90 minutes from the nearest hospital. A$$holes.

  27. “At least that’s what me, Beef, Scooter, and Chowder would have done.”

    Comendable!

  28. The time has come for someone to put his foot down. And that foot is me.

  29. The highlight of my underage drinking carreer was getting a fine and having my drivers liscence suspended for 2 months for having consumed 2 beers in the dorms. I was about 15 ft down the hall from my room, and I didn’t even own a car. But apparently I was endangering society. Thank god they caught me.

  30. The highlight of my underage drinking carreer was getting a fine and having my drivers liscence suspended for 2 months for having consumed 2 beers in the dorms. I was about 15 ft down the hall from my room, and I didn’t even own a car. But apparently I was endangering society. Thank god they caught me.

  31. Re the constitutionality of it all: There are plenty of cases saying that a warrant is required for body cavity and orifice searches. If I were defending one of these guys, that would be my tack — show me a warrant and I’ll let you search in my client’s bloodstream.

  32. Odd, I was just sent a link to more asinine alcohol laws.

    http://www2.potsdam.edu/hansondj/FunFacts/ItsTheLaw.html

  33. The way I look at it, “minors” are always going to be unfairly targeted by our criminal justice system. Two reasons:

    1. They don’t have as much $$$ or political clout as older groups.

    2. No one stays a “minor” forever.

    Most people, while still a “minor,” bitch and groan about the senseless laws and punishments (i.e. what happened to Travis), but once they’re 21 they either stop caring, not care enough to do anything about it, or justify to themselves such puritanical fascism so they can inflict it on younger generations.

    If all black people had Michael Jackson syndrome I’m sure slavery would still be legal.

  34. Mediageek said: “Yeah, but hopefully they’ll pass a law against angry, weight-lifting juicers.”

    Speaking as an angry, libertarian, weight-lifting juicer; I resemble that remark! Besides, last I heard, it was pretty much illegal to be a juicer. Pity that, steroids are just as much fun as all the pot, acid, and shrooms I used to consume. Here’s to my next cycle!

  35. Michigan has a marijuana use penalty of 0-90 days in jail and a fine of up to $100. I do not know if “internal possesion” or something like it was ever claimed under the law but the concept of said did occur to me when I first read about it. I am not aware of any other state that criminalizes use.

  36. Both Vermont and New Hampshire border on Quebec, where the legal drinking age is 18. An 18-20 year old could consume alcohol in Quebec perfectly legally, and then cross the border, thereby committing the “crime” of having legally-consumed alcohol in his or her system.

  37. I used to go to Windsor, Canada with friends quite often after I turned 19 just to be able to buy drinks in a restaurant. Maybe it is that type of activity that is the real reason they want this one passed. They probably couldn’t get Canada to raise its drinking age.

  38. “Speaking as an angry, libertarian, weight-lifting juicer; I resemble that remark! Besides, last I heard, it was pretty much illegal to be a juicer. Pity that, steroids are just as much fun as all the pot, acid, and shrooms I used to consume. Here’s to my next cycle!”

    Nostradumbass, click on Jimmy’s name. 🙂

  39. MGeek-

    After skimming some of his posts, I suspect he might have been serious with his above comment! Hard to say. That pic is a larf though, yeah if I pose like that it makes my biceps look hyoooge! LOL!

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