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Paul Sibiga, 50, who police say allowed his teenage sons and their friends to party on his Hebron property throughout the summer of 2013, was arrested on 28 counts of both reckless endangerment and permitting minors to possess alcohol — one count for each teen that was at the party, held in August, according to the Courant.
The charges came following a police investigation, launched after four teens left the party in a pickup truck and crashed into a tree. Seventeen-year-old passenger Paige Houston died, two others fled the scene, and the allegedly intoxicated driver, also 17, was charged Thursday on various counts, including first-degree manslaughter, drunken driving and reckless endangerment. The crash led police back to Sibiga’s vast, wooded property, where they eventually found the teens hiding behind trees at what was apparently a known party site.
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Sibiga’s lawyer, Paul Melocowsky, tells Yahoo Shine he believes the arrest of his client represents a “misapplication of the laws,” adding, “Did he provide alcohol or know what was going on there? No.”
But the arrest of Sibiga, who’s due back in court on January 7, comes at a time when more and more parents across the country are being held liable for hosting teenage drinkers — and just a year after Connecticut strengthened its “social host” law. The new statute makes it illegal for anyone to allow minors to drink alcohol on their property (whether they provided it or not); previously it had been an infraction, and applied only to adults, but now the charge is a class A misdemeanor and applies to both adults and minors.
“There is a developing momentum trying to deter underage drinking where it’s happening — in homes,” notes Massachusetts attorney Richard L. Campbell, whose father, Richard P. Campbell is an expert on and pioneer of implementing the “social host” laws. Campbell tells Yahoo Shine that he’s seen more and more of the laws popping up across the country as “society wakes up to the outrageous conduct that affects them, and as communities get outraged by parents who take it upon themselves to allow minors to drink and then get into cars.”
While it’s always illegal (with limited exceptions) for adults to purchase or provide alcohol for minors, “social host” laws also hold them accountable for simply allowing the drinking to take place. So basically, “If you condone the activity on your property, you can go to jail,” says Campbell, who holds frequent presentations alerting high school students and parents about the statute. “We say to parents, ‘Look, you know kids are going to drink, so you’re going to let them drink at your home, right? Well that’s a big mistake, and here’s why,’” he says.
In October, also in Connecticut, parents Shawn and Christopher Nixon were arrested for hosting a party in their home for 100 teenagers. "When we got there, there was plenty of beer and hard liquor, drug paraphernalia on the ground, a youth was throwing up on the back lawn," Agent James Kennedy of the Glastonbury Police Department told WTNH at the time.
Earlier this year, before arresting a pair of Connecticut teens for allowing their intoxicated friend to drive in the accident that killed her, police charged a 17-year-old girl for hosting the alcohol-fueled party where they all drank. And in early December, an Orlando, Florida couple was arrested for allegedly providing booze, marijuana and prescription pills to teens at a house party. “I can't believe this," Kelli Krueger told police, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “They are in my house, not on the streets.”
But that attitude is what’s fueling the problem of underage drinking, noted a Pennsylvania principal recently. In a letter written in the PTA newsletter, reported Bethlehem Patch, Freedom High School principal Michael LaPorta referred to parents providing drugs and alcohol as the “elephant in the room” and called for a stop to it. “Have the courage to stand up to your children and say no! Nobody said parenting would be easy. This is one of those times,” he wrote. “One of my greatest fears is of having to make that dreaded morning announcement on a morning that we have lost one of our very own.”
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