Drink Free or Die (Hiccup!)


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.