Criminal Justice

Wake-Up Call to Parents: 2 Years in Jail for Serving Teens Drinks at Party

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A crime that many adults still consider equivalent to exceeding the speed limit and risking a traffic ticket has resulted in two-year jail terms for an Earlysville, Virginia, couple.

Serving beer and wine to 15- and 16-year-olds at a birthday party, even though they took care to make sure the teens would spend the night and not be driving home afterward, netted Elisa Kelly and her ex-husband, George Robinson, 27 months in jail each, reports the Washington Post. Originally, the two were sentenced to eight years in prison, but the sentences were reduced on appeal.

Kelly, 42, who is to start serving her sentence Monday, is reeling. “No one was hurt. No one drove anywhere,” she says. “I really don’t think I deserve to go to jail for this long.” But prosecutor James L. Camblos III of Albemarle County says drinking by minors at the party was a major matter. “Not only were they serving alcohol to 15- and 16-year-olds, they misled parents who called to ask about alcohol, and they tried to get the kids to cover it up after police got there,” he tells the Post.

The sentences are part of an increasing trend of zero tolerance toward adults who enable teen alcohol use. Thus, in the “season of senior proms and graduation parties, the story of the couple is a cautionary tale for parents if they plan to serve alcohol – or look the other way,” writes the newspaper, noting that binge drinking and drunk driving by underage drinkers is up. “Although 27-month sentences are rare, parents are increasingly being held criminally responsible for underage drinking under their roofs, even if they are not aware that it is going on.”

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