A Virginia woman who bought beer and wine for her son's 16th birthday party is headed to prison for 27 months. I understand the need to charge her—she apparently lied to the parents of the kids her son invited. But it seems to me that a fine would have been perfectly appropriate, particularly considering that (a) none of the kids drank to the point of legal intoxication, and (b) she collected keys at the door, and no one left the party.
And 27 months is ridiculous. Thing is, it was almost much worse. The trial judge originally sentenced the woman to 8-10 years, a sentence supported by the local chapter of MADD.
Apparently, it would have been better if she'd turned a blind eye to her son and his friends' underage drinking, and allowed them celebrate in a motel room, a vacant parking lot, or a woods, as my high school friends did, and then drive home.
The article also includes some hysterical statements from the usual neoprohibitionist crowd. Like this one:
But Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney James L. Camblos III, who prosecuted the parents, said it was the worst case of underage drinking he has had to deal with in 15 years.
Really? A party where not a single person was drunk, and not a single person drove home after having a drink, is the "worst case" he's dealt with in 15 years? Really?
Or this one:
"In a lot of cases, the parents are the problem," said Diane Eckert, a prevention specialist in the Safe and Drug-Free Youth section of Fairfax County schools. "The majority of our youth say they obtain their alcohol in their parents' homes."
This is the same zero tolerance line of thinking adopted by groups like MADD and the American Medical Association, which a couple of years ago put out a study lamenting that—horrors!—most underage drinkers get their first taste of alcohol from their parents. Of course, you could make a strong argument that parents are exactly who we want to give teens their first taste of alcohol.
This one's good, too:
Camblos, who has made curbing underage drinking part of this year's reelection campaign, denied any political motivation. "Politics had nothing to do with it. I've seen too many photographs of teenagers being killed in car wrecks because of drinking and driving."
This is just posturing. Elisa Kelly shouldn't have lied to the parents of her son's friends. But come on. She did more to keep drunk drivers off Virginia's roads that night than most parents. She likely made the roads safer that night. And she certainly did nothing to make them more dangerous.
Amusing side note: My article so angered MADD and the AMA, the two groups' presidents called up a CNN producer and demanded the network do a story so they could ridicule me (one state senator in Maryland said I might as well be endorsing "shoplifting parties or rape parties").
The lede to the story was hilarious. It bemoaned how a "big think tank" (I worked for Cato at the time—which, by the way, has a budget a third the size of MADD's) had diverted precious MADD resources from their noble mission, because they now had to respond to this outrageous suggestion that parents who throw supervised parties for underage drinkers ought not be thrown in prison for ten years. The CNN reporter was also openly confrontational with me through the entire interview, and contiuned to lecture me even after the camera stopped rolling.