South And North Of Boston Tales Of Drunk Driving And Providing Alcohol To Minors Come Home To Roost

Massachusetts just voted to change the way we handle the prosecution of possessing a small amount of marihuana. Meanwhile, alcohol still seems to be getting its share of publicity as well.

Two recent stories bring the subject of alcohol home.

No, literally….home.

For example, at approximately 4:30 a.m. this past Saturday morning, Park Street in Stoughton was the scene of a lot of excitement; a car crashed into one of its houses, causing a fire that is now said to have made the house structurally unsafe.

Donald M., 22 (hereinafter, “Defendant 1”) is said to have driven into the uninhabited home, police said, and charged with operating under the influence of liquor, operating a motor vehicle negligently so as to endanger and marked lanes violation.

Fortunately, the home had already been uninhabited.

“Why?”, you ask.

“Because a similar thing happened last year”, I answer. That’s right, the house had already sustained serious damage, including a gaping hole to its foundation, caused by a similar accident last year. Defendant 1’s accident simply added another gaping hole. And caused a fire. And pushed the safety of the structure over the edge of soundness.

When Officer John Hartford arrived on scene, the vehicle was empty and its engine was on fire. The home was also starting to burn, police said. Officer Hartford grabbed a fire extinguisher from his cruiser and tried to keep the fire contained until firefighters arrived.

The fire, according to Fire Deputy Chief Mark Dolloff, jumped to the outside wall of the 2 ½-story balloon frame home and quickly traveled through the second floor and into the attic space.

“It caused damage to the first and second floors of the home and the attic,” said Dolloff. “The accident caused significant damage to the structure of the home.”
The home, he said, is now uninhabitable.

While firefighters were working the scene, police officers attempted to find the occupants of the vehicle.

According to police, a woman who lives near the accident scene came outside and told officers that the operator of the vehicle was inside her home. She told police the man was in her kitchen and was bleeding badly.

And so Defendant 1 was found. He was soon transported to Good Samaritan Hospital by ambulance. After his physical condition was treated, so was his legal condition. He was arrested.

Police could not confirm whether there had been other occupants in the vehicle at the time of the accident. They did say, however, that witnesses reported that more than one person fled the vehicle after it hit the home.

Meanwhile, over in Gloucester, Heidy J. , 44, (hereinafter, “Defendant 2”) is getting hit hard for serving liquor to a group of kids. She has been sentenced to one year in jail.

The children’s age ranged between 12 and 13 years old. They also included her daughter. The events took place at two parties in Defendant 2’s home, according to Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

The arrest took place in July 2007, after the parents of a 12-year-old boy attending the juvenile bash told the police that their son had become sick from drinking liquor provided by Defendant 2 at a party at her house June 8. In a spectacular show of continued…judgment…photos from the party were put up on the internet and a second such party took place. At the second party, weeks later, Defendant 2’s daughter became so drunk she passed out and had to be forced to vomit, according to Gloucester detectives.

As you may have gathered, 12 and 13 year-olds are not known for their ability to hold their liquor.

Defendant 2 pleaded guilty this week in Peabody District Court to seven counts of reckless endangerment of a child and five counts of procuring alcohol for a minor. In addition to one year served in jail, Judge Matthew Nestor sentenced her to another 18 months of probation, during which she will have to undergo random drug and alcohol screenings and is barred from having any “unsupervised contact” with people under 18 years old.

Prosecutors had asked Nestor to impose a five-year jail sentence.

Defendant 2’s daughter has been placed in the custody of the state Department of Children and Families.

Children told detectives that on June 8, Defendant 2 bought bottles of rum, coconut rum, vodka and sour apple schnapps on request from six 13-year-old girls and the 12-year-old Rockport boy. The children chipped in $5 a piece to pay for the liquor.
Five children returned to Defendant 2’s house June 22 for another party, at which her 13-year-old daughter, unconscious from drinking, had to be revived and taken to the bathroom so she could make herself vomit. The girl was not taken to the hospital.
Two photographs taken at the party that appeared on showed children sitting on a couch at Defendant 2’s house sipping brightly colored drinks from plastic water bottles. Police did not determine who the Web page belonged to or who posted the pictures on it.

Samuel’s Take:

You know, if he has no prior such offenses, Defendant 1 may well end up being sentenced to exactly one year less than Defendant 2. Often, a first time Operating Under The Influence offender is not sentenced to jail time. Of course, in his case, it included driving negligently and…the marked lanes violation. He may also be lucky that he did not get charged with leaving the scene.

The defense would say that he did not go very far, but stayed in the area. The Commonwealth would say, ” Yes…because he had not choice as his car was out of commission and he was hurt”. What is not listed here is what he told the neighbor. Let’s be optimistic and assume he told her what had happened and asked her to tell the police where he was.

You may be wondering how they will prove he was drunk. After all, there is no mention of a breathalyzer and it is unlikely that, in his condition, the police performed field sobriety tests on him. However, they will not have had to. He went to the hospital and it is likely that his blood was tested there.

In fact, there is another possible interesting issue about the driver…who was it? Unless he said so, we are not aware of any evidence that he was actually the driver. What if he was simply in the well known “death seat” in front, which is how he got injured?

The accident is certainly a nightmare in Defendant 1’s life. However, it would appear, at least after the accident, he made the right moves. He was hurt and needed attention. There is no mention that he tried to flee, fight or convince the police of his innocence or even hand up the occupants of his car, if any, to serve as witnesses against him.

Well, it would be a better defense than saying that the house caused the accident and relying on the same thing happening a year ago to show a pattern…!

Speaking of nightmares, let’s turn to the Gloucester Juvenile Gala, Parts One and Two. Most people know that buying alcohol for minors is a crime. I would imagine that most also know that actually serving it to minors is likewise a crime. Having two rather public parties full of 12 and 13 year-old kids and pumping them full of hard liquor raises the concept of “bad judgment” to a new level.

Many parents feel that a child should learn about alcohol in the home. Others feel that alittle wine here and there is not a bad thing for a juvenile. Let’s not debate that here. Let’s just point out that this is not the way to go about it. Other than her daughter, these are not her children. Further, this is not a “nip” of wine. It was two parties of straight-out booze.

Defendant 2’s nightmare will continue after getting out of custody. That is, assuming she wants to get her daughter back.

I try to make this daily blog entertaining. The fact is, though, that both these situations could have led to much worse results. In both cases, fatal results.

Defendant 1’s allegedly smashing into the house, while allegedly smashed himself, is likely to end up costing him a lot of money and anguish. But, had the house been inhabited, there could have been deaths. And then he would be looking at some kind of homicide charges. The children served hard alcohol at the two parties by Defendant 2 could have also resulted in worse medical problems , death by alcohol poisoning or some other tragedy as a result of the kids being drunk. There is no mention of it, but one wonders just how sober Defendant 2 was during these juvenile jubilees.

The over-arching thing to be aware of? These are not hardened criminals bent on a life of crime even if they are indeed guilty as charged. They are people whose judgment seems to have taken off for the stratosphere, at least for awhile.

The involvement of law enforcement was probably no surprise to Defendant 1, but I suspect that Defendant 2 did not expect such an investigation and result.

The point? Be careful. And if you did do something wrong…or, if not wrong to you, clearly wrong to others…of facts could be misinterpreted to fit these possibilities, do not play “guess what” with your fate.

Consult an experienced attorney at the first possible moment to best protect yourself.

In the meantime, please remember that, although its use for adults is mostly legal, alcohol consumption can easily lead to…unexpected consequences. Be careful. The courts are not too sympathetic these days to the unimpaired judgment due to the fruit of the vine defense.

Have a good and law-abiding weekend!

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