Thursday, February 07, 2008

Williams' Under Age Drinking Law Falls Short

Former Ulster County District Attorney Don Williams' proposed local law that would prohibit minors from consuming alcohol on private property will be voted on next month by the Ulster County Legislature. Williams first proposed the law in December and in concept it's a good idea, however there is room for improvement.

As written, the law appears only to define terms, define the offense, indicate that there can be exceptions, as spelled out by the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control Law … such as for religious observances... and set a penalty, of not more than 15 days in jail, or a fine of not more than $250.

Don Williams says this at least will start an educational process.... however, it's the educational process that is lacking.

In my opinion there should some sort of educational process tagged on to this law especially when your dealing with kids..having their parents pay a $250 fine does not address the root cause of the problem.

There is also the issue of how the punishment will be given, if your a middle class family I'm sure that you will pay the $25o fine and be on your way. If your struggling and having a hard time making ends meet, then I guess you do the 15 days in jail..sound fair and just?

I urge the Ulster County Legislature to bring this back to committee and look into all of this with a little more detail before it's rushed into law.


Anonymous said...

No smoking in the parks.
No drinking in the house.

Are we bringing freedom to the middle east or are they bringing Fundamentalism here?...smitty

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Jeremy - I'm with you on this one. If there is to be a consequence for minors being allowed to drink alcohol in their home, it should be of an intervention/educational nature.

The fine bit is just more money for the kitty, and at least some of the poorer folks would have to go to jail (causing other problems, regarding job losses, child care, etc.)

Awareness, prevention, education, and intervention...

The courts should play a minimal part, if any, in this.

Anonymous said...

This law has no teeth in it. So now we are going to prosecute the kids who are drinking? Perhaps the more useful tactic would be to draft a host law much like other communities are doing around the state. These kids know it is illegal for them to drink now, yet it does not stop them from doing it. I doubt a $250 fine will have any effect. And as you point it out, it will be paid by the parents. And 15 days in jail? There is not a judge in the state who would impose that penatly on an underage person for drinking. The problem is who is giving it to them. Other states do not have the underage drinking problem we do and that is because their laws on obtaining alcohol are much more strict than ours are. We need to put those that give and sell alcohol to minors at risk for doing so. We need sharper teeth in those laws and prosecutors and judges who will enforce them. Williams's, while he should be applauded for the effort, is wasting our time.

Anonymous said...

Don Williams is like the star who retired from his variety show and is now a guest on someone else's variety show.

SHREK said...

Beware any and all CONTROL FREAK legislation. Personal rights and private property are being compromised by these DO GOODING mind everyone's business, lawyer and court friendly groupies in our state.

We can always sustain 10 to 15 % unemployment for the work force as long as lawyers, judges, and YES D.A.'s are doing their deeds.

The one Barry Goldwater quote I loved was, "You can't legislate morality". Let's not start now...shrek

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable!! I totally agree with your approach and the first six postings.

It gets real dangerous when we see uniformed, armed police knocking on our doors.

This is all about education and parental responsibility.

Anonymous said...

What is he talking about. Every other community in the state is drafting a "host" law. This is what the problem is. We need tougher laws to make sure they do not get the alcohol. Do you really beleive we can educate kids against the dangers more than we are? Do you think they do not already know this message and clearly ignore it? Are you legally allowed to mandate education in this legislation, or does it have to be a choice they make. I think it has to be a choice they ar given. These are simple questions that should of already been answered by Williams, the legislature, or you.

Anonymous said...

This is the actual law:

Introductory Local Law Number 22 Of 2007
County Of Ulster
A Local Law To Prohibit Consumption Of Alcoholic Beverages
By Minors On Private Property (Underage Drinking Party Local
BE IT ENACTED, by the Legislature of the County of Ulster, as follows:
The purpose of this Local Law is to protect the public interest, welfare,
health and safety within the County of Ulster by prohibiting the services to and
consumption of alcoholic beverages and drugs by persons under the age of twentyone
(21) at private premised located in Ulster County. The Ulster County
Legislature finds that the occurrence of social gatherings at private premises where
alcoholic beverages or drugs are served to or consumed by persons under the age
of twenty-one (21) is harmful to such persons themselves and a threat to public
welfare, health and safety. The Ulster County Legislature finds further that
persons under the age of twenty-one (21) often obtain alcoholic beverages or drugs
at such gatherings and that persons who are in control of such premises know or
have reason to know of such service and/or consumption and will be more likely
to ensure that alcoholic beverages and drugs are neither served to nor consumed
by persons under the age of twenty-one (21) at these gatherings.
Whenever used in this Local Law, unless a different meaning is stated in a
definition applicable to only a portion of this Local Law, the following terms will
be defined and shall have meanings set forth below:
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGE: Any liquor, wine, beer, spirits, cider or
other liquid or solid, patented or not, composed of or containing alcohol or spirits,
whether or not brewed, fermented or distilled, and capable of being consumed by a
person; except that confectionary containing alcohol as provided in Subsection 12
or 200 Agriculture and Markets Law shall not be considered alcoholic beverages
within the meaning of this section.
CONTROL: The authority and ability to regulate, direct or dominate.
DRUG: Includes any substance listed in Section 3306 of the Public Health
MINOR: Any person under the age of twenty-one (21).
- Page 2 -
Introductory Local Law Number 22 Of 2007
County Of Ulster
A Local Law To Prohibit Consumption Of Alcoholic Beverages
By Minors On Private Property (Underage Drinking Party Local
OPEN HOUSE PARTY: A social gathering at a residence or other
private property with minors present.
PERSON: A human being and where appropriate, a public or private
corporation, an unincorporated association, a partnership, a government or a
governmental instrumentality.
PREMISES: Any home, apartment, condominium, co-operative unit or
other dwelling unit of any kind, including yards and open areas adjacent thereto.
No person having control of any premises shall allow an open house party
to take place at said residence if such person knows or has reason to know that any
alcoholic beverage or drug is being unlawfully possessed, served to or consumed
by a minor at said residence.
The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
(a) The possession or consumption of an alcoholic beverage by persons
lawfully permitted to do so pursuant to Section 65-c of the New
York State Alcohol Beverage Control Law, or any other applicable
law; or
(b) The possession or consumption of a drug for which the individual
has a current, valid prescription or as otherwise permitted by any
other applicable law.
(a) If any part or provision of this section is inconsistent with any
Federal or State statute, law, rule or regulation, then such statute,
law, rule or regulation shall prevail.
- Page 3 -
Introductory Local Law Number 22 Of 2007
County Of Ulster
A Local Law To Prohibit Consumption Of Alcoholic Beverages
By Minors On Private Property (Underage Drinking Party Local
(b) If any part or provision of this Section or the application thereof to
any person or circumstance be adjudged invalid by a court of
competent jurisdiction, such judgment shall be confined in its
operation to the part or provision of or application directly involved
in the controversy in which such judgment shall have been rendered
and shall not affect or impair the validity of the remainder of this
section, or the application thereof to other persons or circumstances.
Failure to comply with Section 3 above shall constitute a violation,
punishable by a fine which shall not exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00), or
imprisonment not exceeding fifteen (15) days or a combination of such fine and
imprisonment as shall be fixed by the court.
This Local Law shall take effect immediately.

Anonymous said...

I approve of the law, although I do not understand why it refers to an "open house party" but defines it simply as "a social gathering at a residence or other private property with minors present". What does that have to do with an "open house"?

This is an ordinance that is taking root in similar form around the state. I believe it was the subject of discussion in Ulster County's Underage Drinking Task Force before the incident, but it took on greater urgency with the tragic death of Andrew Dean-Lipson last year.

It is aimed not at the underaged drinkers but rather at the adults/parents who own the premises. New York has traditionally shielded parents from liability for the harmful actions of their children. This ordinance is a step in the right direction in terms of placing responsibility where it belongs. You can't legislate the way people raise their kids, but you can make them take responsibility for the safety of 'other people's kids' in their homes.

We already have a "Dram Shop Act" which places potential civil liability on a premises owner in a similar situation. This constructs a corresponding prohibition in the criminal realm. The difficulty in enforcement will lie in proving that the owner "allowed" the consumption of contraband. I think this is too passive. I would feel better about a more clear definition of the required mental culpability.

I agree with the previous comment about the sale to minors. It is a felony to sell marijuana to a minor, and rightfully so (Penal Law 221.50). Why isn't the penalty as severe for selling alcohol to minors? The Alcoholic Beverage Control Law sec. 65 says sale to someone under 21 is illegal, but the only penalty cited is loss of a liquor license. Buying alcohol for a minor gets you 5 days/$200 fine under A.B.C. 65-a. By the way, you can give YOUR OWN child, under 21, alcohol without breaking the A.B.C. [see sec. 65-c(1)(b)]

How much money do we spend cracking down on merchants who habitually sell alcohol to minors? Where is our County-wide task force for that problem?

Jon Sennett

SHREK said...

Just like Politicians will sell you lies, so lawyers will always sell you more legislation.

MMMMMM In both cases I wonder WHY?...SHREK

Anonymous said...

Alcohol is our biggest health and safety threat and as long as we use prohibition as a tool of control of substances, we will continue to give undue favor to alcohol. We could solve many alcohol related problems by instituting a minimum sale law that would require larger purchases and thereby thwart it's availability to the most affected victims. Restaurants and bars would have massive revenue increases,while law enforcement could more easily identify abuse. Soon, with the inevitability of universal healthcare,alcohol abuse treatment and health related illness treatment costs could be recoverable like those attributed to the tobacco companies. I'm not holding my breath waiting for those things to happen. With the national IQ around a hundred it might take decades.

Anonymous said...

I found this blog a few weeks ago though didn't notice there were many issues. The day I read it there was mention of Don Williams getting a anonymous $7000.00 donation.
I just saw the underage drinking blog. In response to that. I think Don's intention was to appease the parents of the boy that died by putting a law in effect that could in essence be applied to an adult that lets kids drink. He thought that would make the parents feel better and deflect attention on the real offenders that were the parents that allowed the teens to drink and drank with them. Once the educational component was introduced by a woman working with teens that were all friends of both teens that survived the car crash and the boy who died he knew the parents would not be happy given that the teens put something positive in place including the boy that was driving in the accident. Don needs the boy driving to look like a monster so no one looks at the attorney party host.
Would you feel satisfied if your child died and the adult that let them drink paid $250 or went to jail for 15 day? Could they then live guilt free? It wouldn't help me to feel better.
Adding an educational component would at least get people talking about it instead of sweeping it under the carpet. It's a small baby step but a step in the right direction.
It seems that Don Williams did nothing to the attorney that not only allowed teens to drink but drank with him. His name was not in one article and we heard nothing about any criminal charges. Just that there is a loop hole??? Give me a break! Could he be the anonymous donor of the mysterious $7000.00.

I question his motives...seems there may be a piece of cheese cake waiting for him at the end of all this.

Brittany said...

this proposed law is outrageous on so many levels.

not to mention, should this really be a priority for the UC leg?!?

legislating for the sake of legislating. now THAT'S an effective use of time and resources.

Anonymous said...

This Social Host Law is flawed and unenforceable. I cannot understand why the legislature is even considering its passage. Some of the legislators have said they are supporting it out of respect for Don Williams. Don Williams put this local law forward to appease the parents of a young man killed in an after prom party late last year. His reasoning is that he cannot prosecute the attorney whom hosted the party with our current laws. I disagree.
I am wondering out loud who anonymously donated the $7000 for Don's salary? What happened to investigating the attorney that hosted this party? I spoke with the limo bus driver that brought all the kids to the attorney's house for the prom party that night. He was an off duty NYPD officer named Chris. I was adamant that NO alcohol be allowed on the limo bus. There was about 40 kids on the limo bus. I called Chris the Sunday after the accident, telling him there had been a fatality and he said that no kids brought alcohol on the limo bus when he picked them up and dropped them at the attorney's house that Saturday night. I actually scoured the limo bus myself to make sure there was NO alcohol hidden on board when they first left at 7 PM. How did all the alcohol get to the attorney's house? Why did the attorney take all the kids car keys and block his driveway? Why did the attorney coach the kids what to say before police arrived early that morning? Why didn't the Grand Jury hear testimony from all the kids? Did the attorney donate the $7000? Why did the attorney leave the country abruptly on that Sunday morning after the party in an unscheduled trip to Mexico?
It seems that Don wants to make the teenage driver a scapegoat for this incident and not spread the blame across the board to all responsible parties. My opinion is that Don is to close to the parents in this case personally and should recuse himself from prosecuting the case. We have an agreement with Dutchess County DA Grady to handle these types of cases and it would not cost the taxpayers any $$$ Don is being paid a per diem price of $565 a day or thereabouts. Something does not smell right about this whole incident and it is carrying over to the steam rolling passage of this social host law.

Brittany Turner said...

I applaud Legislators Aiello, Provenzano and Parete for putting forth their best effort in preventing the passage of an ineffective and technically flawed law.