Vice Squad
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
A Wrong Turn at Colby? [Clarified!]

Well, distilled alcohol producers might not advertise in college newspapers but many college kids, even those under the age of 21, still drink. Further, some of them drink irresponsibly, and with tragic results that are lamentably common.

Last weekend, some 14 students at Colby College in Maine were charged with underage drinking or related offenses. But in their eagerness to control underage drinking, I am afraid that local law enforcement personnel might be inadvertently contributing to tragic outcomes. From the sound of what is said in the linked article, when someone drinks excessively and needs to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, the police will also respond in order to see if underage drinking is taking place and to ticket the offenders. This can easily lead to situations where kids postpone calling medical authorities for too long -- calling an ambulance for an acquaintance is like calling the cops on yourself. Instead of "taxing" such calls for help, I think subsidies might even be in order. Another policy that is announced in the article is that sober designated drivers who are good enough to provide safe passage to drinking kids will themselves be arrested and charged with the crime of furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol. Hadn't we seen enough of that in Naperville?

Correction: The author of the linked story was good enough to send in an update. The police have clarified their policy with respect to non-drinking drivers who are giving a ride to their in-the-cups friends. If there is no drinking going on inside the car, only the passengers will be summonsed, for possession of alcohol by a minor. The driver will only be charged with furnishing a place for minors to consume alcohol if the passengers are drinking in the car.

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