Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Alcohol - minors to minors

A case in Judge Weech's court this morning involved a high school senior who had allowed visiting minors to consume alcohol in his parents' home. The accused was accompanied by his mother, and Judge Weech was very direct and very stern with the kid.

Apparently, there had been a pool party, and two other students, ages 14 and 15, had come over to his house. The kid pled guilty to the availability of the alcohol, although his attorney explained to the judge that the other kids had already been drinking before they arrived.

The kid's parents were home, but asleep. Judge Weech told the kid in no uncertain terms that he should have told the kids to leave or awakened his parents to call the parents of the kids to pick them up. Judge Weech explained the financial risk to the kid - that, had one of the kids drowned in the pool, his parents could have lost their home in a civil case.

Judge Weech also explained that he could put the kid in the County Jail for 364 days and fine him up to the maximum of $2,500. By that time the kid must have been wondering whether he was going to end up with jail time. Instead, Judge Weech sentenced him to a $500 fine plus court costs, one year of supervision, 50 hours of community service, and an alcohol evaluation.

Too many kids today think that criminal charges and court are not serious. Maybe we should do away with Conditional Discharge. Maybe there should be more jail sentences. Maybe hard labor should be required during community service. Maybe judges should direct that parents' not pay their kids' fines and court costs and the County could provide hard-labor jobs for those who can't pay their fines and court costs.

As I sat in court watching this, I wondered just how effective District 200's student alcohol awareness program is. I don't know that this morning's case involved Woodstock, but it's a county-wide problem - even larger than McHenry County.

What is it going to take to get through to today's kids that they are jeopardizing their future by high-risk behavior that leads them into court?

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