UNDERAGE DRINKING AND CUSTODY
May 18, 2011 § 2 Comments
We are all familiar with the scenario: Modification case pending and one of the facts supporting the charge of material change/adverse effect/best interest is the fact that mom allowed junior and his friends to have beer at a senior graduation party she allowed to take place at her home. Dad, who wants the modification, is incensed. Mom minimizes it, insisting that no one got drunk, no one was allowed to operate a vehicle after drinking, and besides, these are all young men and women who are about to go off to college, and what’s the big deal?
The Mississippi Legislature passed a bill, effective July 1, 2011, that amends MCA § 67-3-70, to prohibit adults from allowing a party to take place at a private residence or private premises if a minor at the party obtains any alcoholic beverage or beer and the adult knows or reasonably should have known that the minor has done so. The offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,000 or not more than 90 days incarceration.
The public policy of the state, then, appears to weigh against mom’s position.
I don’t find a case where the issue was squarely before the appellate courts. I have seen cases at the trial level where the issue is raised among others with respect to custody. In the case of Self v. Lewis, decided by the COA on May 17, 2011, there is this language at ¶ 40: “Providing alcohol to a minor is a crime, and the “[c]ommission of crimes by a custodial parent . . . is properly the concern of a chancellor.” Sullivan v. Stringer, 736 So. 2d 514, 516 (¶14) (Miss. App. 1999). In Self, the custodial father had a relationship with an 18-year-old woman to whom he served alcohol. Sullivan involved the crime of cohabitation.