Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

December 27, 2013

Adults who provide alcohol to teens will be arrested

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — If Batesville police were called to a drinking party involving teens and parents were at home, would the adults be charged? Police Chief Stan Holt answers, “Yes, if the parents are knowingly allowing kids to drink alcohol in their homes.”

Adults would be arrested for furnishing alcohol to a minor, a Class B misdemeanor. That would be raised to a Class A misdemeanor if the person had been charged with that offense before. The charge would be much more serious, a Class D felony, “if the use of alcohol is the proximate cause of serious bodily injury or death – if somebody at the party gets hurt in any way.”

If the person is found guilty or enters a guilty plea, the possible sentence for a Class D felony is a prison term of six months to three years and up to a $10,000 fine, according to him.

The chief reflects, “I think that most parents do a pretty good job at obeying the law and not furnishing alcohol. I know we still have parents out there” who look at drinking at an early age as a southeastern Indiana rite of passage. They think, “‘We did it when we were kids and we all turned out OK.’”

Serving alcohol to minors can greatly affect the providers and imbibers. He notes, “Looking at the big picture, it can destroy their lives. If a teenager leaves (the gathering) and gets hurt or killed … now that person (who offered liquor) is getting charged with a felony ... (If the youth) gets involved in an accident three hours later … (after) drinking, that person is absolutely going to have civil liability there on top of the criminal” charge.

Holt urges area residents, “Don’t take that chance on destroying your life. Be the adult. Don’t allow it. Just say no.”

Since 2007, when he was appointed chief, he can’t recall of any adults who have been detained for giving alcohol to teens. “That shows, for the most part, the parents and the adults do a good job, but that doesn’t change the fact we know that it still does happen. Just because we haven’t had a situation like that occur, all it takes is one time to change somebody’s life.”

When underage drinking parties happen, are parents usually absent? The answer is yes. Over Holt’s 21-year police career in Batesville, “probably 90 percent of the time we’ve gotten called to a party, everybody there has been underage.” Typically, the liquor was furnished by a young adult friend who hosted the bash.

Indiana State Excise Police are getting tougher on underage drinking at college football games, in bars and other spots. Most recently police arrested 17 at a party in Knox Dec. 15. “Shortly after midnight Sunday, officers with the Indiana State Excise Police, Starke County Sheriff’s Office and the Knox City Police Department investigated an anonymous complaint,” reported Cpl. Travis Thickstun, ISEP public information officer. Resident James Hudgens, 19, was preliminarily charged with illegal consumption of alcohol and furnishing alcohol to minors.

When asked if excise police are getting more involved in this region, Holt nods. “We have an excise officer here in our town. We have an excellent working relationship with Indiana State Excise Police. They’ve taken a little more aggressive approach over the last few years” in law enforcement.

So have state officials, who have gained federal grants to fund extra police patrols. “Operation Pullover has been a big deterrent” to drinking and driving, the chief believes. “That’s played a big part in keeping the accidents down ... there are aggressive patrols looking for the intoxicated drivers.”

Of teen drinking, he says, “I don’t want the citizens to think law enforcement in our community are looking at this as the No. 1 problem because it’s not. But we do want them to know what the law is. Our role ... is insuring the safety of the community.

“Over the recent years, there are different issues we tackle. The drug issue, I think, is one of the top priorities with our agency right now and we’re aggressively going after the drug dealers … and getting them out of our community.”

“As a whole, our community has made progress in the whole fight against drugs … Law enforcement has played a role in that.” He says the community-wide effort also has included education at schools and the Coalition for a Drug-Free Batesville, which he chairs with Mayor Rick Fledderman. “There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but we have made an impact.”

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.