Whose Wine Is It, Anyway? Part 2

Next Tuesday, January 8, a public hearing will be held in Montclair to discuss three ordinances being proposed to make underage drinking illegal – not only in public places, but in your home. These were advanced through the recommendations of the Montclair PD, the Montclair Community Intervention Alliance (a township-appointed group that works on substance abuse awareness and prevention, especially with youth), and the sponsorship of Mayor Remsen, says town manager Joe Hartnett.
Township attorney Alan Trembulak, gave us two scenarios of when the ordinance might be enforced:
1) your child goes to a friend’s home to drink alcohol – parents are not home. Police are called. The minor could be fined, and driver’s license suspended.
2) a minor or group of minors are drinking alcohol in your home, while you, the parent, are present and you knowingly allow the kids to party on.
We asked Montclair Chief of Police, David Sabagh, “Why are these ordinances necessary, if the offense is already covered by state statutes, how will they improve enforceability, and deter minors from drinking?

Ordinance 74-21 address two serious problems we frequently deal with in Montclair; that is the consumption of alcohol beverages by underage persons as well as the service of alcohol beverages to underage persons.
We have responded to serious cases over the years where young adults/teenagers have consumed great quantities of alcohol and had to be hospitalized for their condition. Some cases involved assaults and physical violence, most involved property damage and theft.
These ordinances simply allow the police to address the problem of underage drinking on private property and deal with it at the local level, the municipal level, in many cases preventing the offenders from being charged criminally and having a permanent criminal record.
These ordinances do not give the police any more authority than they have previously possessed to enter a private home or to conduct searches or seizures. Federal and State Laws are very clear on what authority the police have and do not have.
These local ordinances do not in anyway change these laws or provide any greater powers to the police. These ordinances do however help address a serious problem in Montclair and provide a mechanism to address it at the local, municipal level. This we hope will be enough of a deterrent that both parents and teens will exercise better judgment and refrain from this type of illegal behavior.
These proposed ordinances are in response to serious alcohol related problems involving teenagers and young adults. I believe the Council recognizes the seriousness of this problem and is willing to help address this health and safety issue by introducing these ordinances.
David P. Sabagh
Chief of Police

You can also read a statement and explanation of the proposed ordinances on the town website, here.

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  1. The law is intended primarily to deter teenage drinking parties by holding those adults responsible who knowingly or intentionally allow such parties to occur on their property.
    Showing evidence of knowledge should be interesting in court cases to come. Still, I’ll bet most of these incidents happen without parental knowledge which this ordinance does not address. Education through punishment is not my choice of solution. Look to the school system–classroom education and parent outreach–for a better way to go.

  2. Knowledge can be proven constructively. Many times, if it can be shown that a person either knew or “should have known” that an event was likely to occur, he/she will be deemed to have had constructive knowledge.

  3. So is it…
    “a minor or group of minors are drinking alcohol in your home, while you, the parent, are present and you knowingly allow the kids to party on”
    or is it…
    “it can be shown that a person either knew or “should have known” that an event was likely to occur, he/she will be deemed to have had constructive knowledge”
    Big difference. Who will decide if a parent “should have known”?

  4. Under Trembulak’s second scenario above — which is the only one where constructive knowledge might apply — the argument would probably be that as an adult/parent you are responsible for knowing what is going on in your home at all times.

  5. Trembulak’s second scenario mentions the parents must be home.
    That’s different from knowing what is happening in your home when you are not there.
    So which is it?

  6. As I said, under his second scenario — parents home, kids partying — parents are presumed to know what’s going on. No matter if they are separated by three floors and a soundproof basement.
    Trembulak doesn’t mention your second scenario as one under which the ordinance will be enforced, so I think it’s irrelevant.

  7. Sorry, read the “should have known” as if the parents were not home as I assumed if they were home, they would definitely know.

  8. About 10 years ago my brother and his crew were at a party where the father was next door at the neighbors (where he did not know the kids would be drinking the beer he had purchased and left in the home with a hundred plastic cups, wink, wink). His kid fell and hit his head. Brother and crew announced they were calling 911 for help and everyone should leave, which most kids did. When the police arrived before to the requested ambulance (as they always do in Montclair) the father came back from the neighbors and prevented the police from going in the house because he didn’t want the police to find evidence of kids drinking – preventing his own child from getting medical attention. That is one scenario I can think of where these new versions of the law would be helpful to law enforcement arriving on the scene.

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