Articles Posted in Underage OUI DUI

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As a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense attorney, I wrote in April about the death of a young woman from Salem, 19-year-old Julia Gauthier, in a drunk driving accident. Gauthier was riding home from a party in a car driven by her boyfriend, Christopher Maxson, when he ran two stop signs, was clipped by another driver and flipped his SUV. The resulting accident threw Gauthier from the vehicle’s sunroof, killing her at the scene. Maxson and two other passengers suffered only minor injuries. Maxson pleaded not guilty at the time to motor vehicle homicide while driving under the influence. But on Dec. 17, Maxson changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to three to four years in state prison. The sentence was less than some of Gauthier’s family wanted, but more than the defense had hoped for.

The hearing was marked by statements from both families. Gauthier’s family read statements about her achievements and her promise in life; she was a college student when she died. Gauthier’s mother, Marie Gauthier, said she knew Maxson didn’t intend to kill her daughter and described the situation as a tragedy for both families. She said she hoped the experience would rehabilitate him. Maxson’s probation officer from a previous marijuana possession offense said he believed Maxson was open to rehabilitation and suffering from bipolar disorder. Maxson himself cried in court as his father read a letter he had written, saying he misses Gauthier and begs for forgiveness.

Read articles: Man given 3 to 4 years for fatal accident; Man gets prison for fatal crash

As a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense lawyer, I hope the probation officer is right. Maxson wrote in his letter that his feelings — missing Gauthier and knowing he’s responsible — are already “the ultimate punishment.” That doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate for the commonwealth of Massachusetts to also penalize him, but I suspect the judge took Maxson’s remorse into account when sentencing him. The maximum sentence for felony motor vehicle homicide is 15 years in prison, and Maxson’s sentence is significantly lower. However, he will likely also face a license suspension and other penalties for any OUI, not to mention the post-release consequences of a felony conviction. In fact, his accident has already been used by Salem-area high schools as an example of the terrible consequences of drinking and driving. These are very serious penalties for a young man just launching into adulthood — but I hope they help him and others avoid more fatal accidents caused by irresponsibility and mistakes.

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2414507356_7fc8aec312_mA Beverly woman is in legal trouble after a teenager claimed the woman hosted a party at which she served teenagers a large amount of alcoholic drinks. That would put the woman in violation of the Massachusetts social host law, which dictates criminal penalties for adults who knowingly serve alcohol to minors. As a Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer, I have been very interested in following how our state’s social host law has been applied, because it can easily be used to prosecute innocent people. Anyone charged with violating this law should contact a Massachusetts intoxicated driving defense attorney immediately in order to preserve their rights and improve their chances of getting the charges dismissed or a not-guilty verdict.

In the Beverly case, police received complaints after midnight on Oct. 31 about a loud party at the apartment of Tiffany Clark, 35, at 903 Manor Road. Police entered the apartment, found several teenagers inside and contacted their parents. Police also reportedly found empty beer cans and 75-100 empty cups that they said were probably used for Jell-O shots. They observed Clark to be unsteady on her feet, slurring her speech and responding “somewhat incoherently” to officers’ questions. Then she fell down, and police called for an ambulance to take her to Beverly Hospital. Clark’s children stayed with a friend’s parents, and police notified the Department of Children and Families.

Police also received a report that a 16-year-old girl was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning after being present at the party at Clark’s apartment. The girl told police that Clark refused to take her to a hospital or call 911, and that someone else called the girl’s relatives for help. When police arrived at Clark’s apartment, they informed her about the girl’s hospitalization, and noted in their report that she “seemed not to care.” Clark is criminally charged with procuring alcohol for minors and with allowing minors to consume alcohol at her home, in violation of the social host law. If convicted, she could be sentenced to up to a year in prison, a $2,500 fine, or both.

Read articles: Beverly mom summonsed for teen booze bash

The articles in the media about this situation portray Clark as being obviously guilty of getting her child’s teenage friends drunk. As a Massachusetts intoxicated driving attorney, I know that the law has to adhere to a higher standard than the media do, and that’s why it’s important for someone in Clark’s position to contact an attorney right away. It may be tempting to plead guilty after a trial in the “court” of public opinion, but it takes an experienced attorney to decide whether the charges are supported by the actual evidence. From what we have seen in the news reports, the police did not find any teenagers who were drunk or drinking alcohol at Clark’s apartment, and she did not admit to having furnished them with alcohol. Clark herself may have been drunk, but it’s not illegal for a 35-year-old woman to be drunk in her own home. At worst, the evidence presented here may suggest poor parenting, but not illegal furnishing of alcohol to minors.

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103769624_0a2f680106_mRecently, I wrote about a case in which parents were being charged under the social host law for their underage child’s party, which involved underage guests drinking alcohol. A new case in Cohasset shows how much of an impact the social host laws can have on a parent’s life. A woman whose underage son allegedly had a drinking party at her house has been subjected to the kinds of restrictions that we normally see for people who have been charged with a second or higher OUI offense. As a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense lawyer, I think it’s important for anyone with teenage children to be aware of how the social host law could affect them.

On a Saturday night during the first weekend in August, an eighteen year old, allegedly had 23 teenage friends over at the Cohasset home of his mother, age 50. A neighbor made a noise complaint to the police. Police officer John St. Ives came out to the home and reportedly heard people loudly chanting, “take off your shirt” and “we got your shirt off.” As St. Ives approached the back yard, he found people aged 17-19 sitting around a table drinking out of plastic cups, and beer cans all over the yard. The mother came out onto the deck while St. Ives questioned the teenagers. She claimed to have been at a friend’s house all night and to have been unaware that the kids were drinking alcohol, but was unable to supply the name of her friend. Two of her son’s friends told St. Ives that she had been home for 45 minutes and did know that they were drinking. Both the mother and son were arrested for disturbing the peace. The mother also faces charges of violating the social host law and keeping a disorderly house. The son and his 23 guests are charged with possessing alcohol as a minor.

Read article: Mother and son arrested because of underage drinking party

At their arraignment in Quincy District Court, both defendants pleaded not guilty and were released on personal recognizance. The judge scolded the mother for failing to supervise her son. They were ordered not to use alcohol or other drugs and to submit to random testing. Test results showing alcohol or drug use would be grounds to put them in jail for up to 60 days. The Probation Department will install a sobriety-testing device at the woman’s house as well. A probation surrender hearing will be held August 30 to determine whether this incident violates the terms of the woman’s probation from a May domestic violence case. In that incident, she was charged with two counts of assault and battery after going to her ex-husband’s home when she was intoxicated and attacking him with her shoe and punching him. If she is determined to have violated probation, she could go to jail.

In my view as a Massachusetts drunk driving defense attorney, it’s vitally important to recognize that Massachusetts’ social host law forbids adults to knowingly or intentionally provide alcohol to minors or to allow them to drink in their homes. The woman told police she didn’t know that the kids at her house were drinking. As a parent of an 18-year-old, it’s understandable that she may have thought she didn’t have to supervise her son and his friends, since her son is a legal adult in all respects except for drinking alcohol. Even if she heard them chanting “we got your shirt off” in the back yard, she may have just assumed they were being obnoxious, rather than that they were playing a drinking game like the police said.

Not paying attention to what teenagers are doing at your house, while perhaps inadvisable, is a far cry from knowingly and intentionally providing them with alcohol. The social host law may make sense for parents of kids under 18, over whom parents legally do have authority, but most parents of 18-21 year olds are trying to give their children the space to become adults and to live their own lives. Watching over them while they spend time with their friends is no way to do that. Anyone convicted of violating this law can be punished by a $2,000 fine or up to a year in prison, though, so the law forces parents to walk a difficult line between protecting themselves legally and encouraging their kids to become responsible adults.

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In Marshfield, a couple with a 19-year-old son are defending themselves against charges that they allowed underage kids to consume alcoholic beverages at their home. Jeffrey and Janet Bessemer have been ordered to appear in court on misdemeanor charges of furnishing alcohol to minors and keeping a disorderly home, and violating the Massachusetts social host law. Fortunately, the case does not spring from a death or injury; police called on a noise complaint found a party at the Bessemers’ home. The Bessemers told the Quincy Patriot-Ledger that they had had their own party earlier that day, and they had neglected to put away all the leftover alcoholic beverages and shot glasses after it was over because they were tired.

Later that night, their 19-year-old son planned to have a few friends come over to meet his girlfriend, and the Bessemers said that a larger group of young adults showed up after 10 p.m. without their knowledge. Jeffrey Bessemer said that second group must have supplied the alcohol and that he wouldn’t have provided it. A neighbor called police complaining about loud music at 11:45 p.m., and when police arrived, they found both garage doors open with about 20 people hanging around there, and another 10 people inside the house. Only three of them were of legal age to drink alcohol, but police said most or all of them were holding beer containers or red plastic cups containing alcoholic beverages. There was a table in the garage holding plastic cups and a large amount of alcohol in open and closed containers, and in the kitchen police found liquor bottles and shot glasses. The Bessemers came downstairs shortly after the police arrived and told them they had been unaware that anyone was drinking. A Marshfield police officer expressed doubt about this.

Read article: Marshfield couple faces social host charges.

A few months ago, I discussed my concern that the social host law could be overzealously interpreted, and it appears that the Bessemers’ case may be an example of just that. As a Massachusetts OUI defense attorney, I would look at the situation with a more critical eye than the police officer may have used. There are a number of possible reasons why the Bessemers could have been unaware of their son’s party, even if it did generate a noise complaint. Noise complaints aren’t always reasonable, and noise can be blocked by well-insulated or large homes. The Bessemers may have trusted their son and didn’t realize that his judgment wasn’t as good as they thought.

The social host law specifies that “furnishing” alcohol means to provide it or allow its consumption on your property “knowingly and intentionally.” Proving this could be an uphill battle in this case. The Bessemers claim they didn’t do it knowingly or intentionally, if they did it at all, and there are alternative interpretations of the situation. The law absolutely should hold people responsible for their actions, but in a case like this, prosecutors and officers should investigate carefully before holding parents responsible for the actions of their adult children and those children’s friends. As a Massachusetts intoxicated driving defense attorney, I’m glad that the drinking at the Bessemers’ son’s party appears to have been harmless, and that no related drunk driving accidents were reported.

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2184957451_4749c220f0_mA Scituate teenager who crashed his car has been charged with driving under the influence, speeding, and other driving violations after attempting to escape from the police while they interviewed his passengers. The 17-year-old Scituate High School student’s name is being withheld because he is a minor. As a Massachusetts drunk driving defense lawyer, I am glad that no one was hurt in this incident,
Police said that the student’s 2006 Ford Focus totally blocked the intersection of Edith Holmes Drive and Tilden Road, although it was unclear what had led to the crash. Police arrived at the scene around 12:45 a.m. on April 29 and found four teenagers standing outside the car, each of them emitting “a strong odor of liquor.” A witness said that a fifth passenger had been involved and had fled the scene on foot, but police were unable to find him or her. The teens gave police “various names,” suggesting that they were lying about their identities initially, but police eventually ascertained their real names. Three of them had been listed as honor students in the local papers. A Breathalyzer test showed the driver’s blood alcohol content to be 0.16%, twice the legal limit for adults over 21 and eight times the limit for drivers under 21. That impairment measurement may help explain the driver’s unusual choice to get back in his car and try to drive away while police were questioning the three passengers. The driver told police, “I have to drive it home, there is something wrong with the front end,” according to the police report. The driver finally gave up and got out of the car “only after strong verbal language was used,” and the car was towed away. The driver is scheduled for a pre-trial conference in late May.

Read article: Scituate student faces drunk driving charge.

As a Massachusetts OUI criminal defense attorney, I’m sure the driver and his parents are dismayed at having to spend the spring and summer learning about how the Massachusetts court system works and the serious penalties for drunk driving. It would be wise for them to contact an experienced Massachusetts OUI defense lawyer to guide them through this difficult process. Massachusetts law treats minors differently from adults with respect to drunk driving charges, providing for a longer period of driver’s license suspension as well as a lower legal limit. The student and his parents may also be concerned about how this accident will affect his future. An attorney can help them work toward the best possible outcome for this student — a dismissal of the charges or a not guilty verdict, hopefully accompanied by a realization that drunk driving is a very serious charge.

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