Thursday, June 14, 2007

Under-age Drinking

On Wednesday evening Rick Atwater led a very interesting discussion on under-age drinking and parents who provide alcoholic beverages to minor friends of their children. The meeting was the Family Council of the Family CARE Project, funded by a $9,000,000, six-year grant awarded to the McHenry County Mental Health Board.

Rick is a member of the McHenry County Substance Abuse Coalition. He led the discussion by asking questions and allowing plenty of communication among the participants, who are family members involved in some way with the mental health agencies of McHenry Council.

No consensus was reached on why parents provide alcohol to minors. During the discussion I mentioned that I had been an observer in McHenry County Judge Bolger’s court in McHenry last year and watched him accept plea bargains from youth represented by a McHenry attorney. These kids, and there were several of them, had been arrested for under-age drinking. Judge Bolger accepted guilty pleas to unlawful parking and fined each of them $100 (plus court courts, of course). So, assuming $150-200 in court costs and $250 in legal fees, it was a $500 “hit” for the parents.

But what was the lesson for the kids? After they turned away from the judge, they were all smiles and laughing as they left the courtroom.

What we need is a judge who will refuse such plea bargains. Have the State’s Attorney actually do the job his office gets paid to do – prosecute crimes. Make the case well and expect to prove guilt.

I also mentioned a comment about our own McHenry County State’s Attorney in the Daily Herald (not the Northwest Herald), following the drunk driving fatality in DuPage County, when a female Assistant State’s Attorney killed herself while reportedly driving drunk, speeding and talking on her cell phone.

Said the Daily Herald on May 26, 2007, “McHenry County State's Attorney Louis Bianchi has a standing agreement with his staff: If, for any reason, they cannot drive, he personally will reimburse them for their cab fare home."

Gee, thanks, Dad.

Does he mean if one of his Assistant State’s Attorneys is out to lunch and gets food poisoning? Or if he gets a little hot when it’s 92ยบ and “cannot drive”? Or if he is too tired after a hard day prosecuting cases in McHenry County?

Or does he mean if an Assistant State’s Attorney drinks too much and is drunk and cannot drive?

If this is what he really means, then I suggest he needs to send another message to his employees. He needs to tell them that, if they are ever too drunk to drive, he is going to fire them.

Check out this article in Sunday's Chicago Tribune about the mom in Virginia who is going to jail for two years for buying $340 worth of beer for her kids' party:,1,4093333.story

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