More states are holding adults criminally accountable for serving liquor in their homes to underage drinkers, notes the Washington Post. In an editorial the newspaper says that parents who enable underage drinking, especially by young teenagers, deserve to be prosecuted and punished within reason. In Virginia’s Albemarle County, Elisa Kelly and her former husband, George Robinson, have begun serving 27-month jail terms for having provided beer and wine at a backyard birthday party five years ago for Kelly’s son Ryan, who was 16 at the time. The prosecutor had sought a three-month sentence. Kelly and Robinson had collected car keys from the underage guests so that none would leave the party at the wheel of a car.
The Post says this sentence is so harsh that it goes far beyond reasonable deterrence. The newspaper does note that Kelly and Robinson apparently misled or lied to parents who asked whether alcohol would be served; they advised youths who were drinking on techniques for covering the liquor on their breath. The juvenile court judge who imposed eight-year sentences and the appeals court that cut those to 27 months “seem to have lost any sense of proportion,” says the Post. There are instances of far more serious crimes, even killings, whose perpetrators face less time behind bars than do Kelly and Robinson.