There are no exceptions that allow underage drinking in NC BY JOSH SHAFFER

This is a reprint of an article in the News and Observer on 8/14/14

“It can happen at a wedding party. It can start as a graduation toast. It can escalate at the dinner table after a first glass of wine. Teens drink alcohol. Parents get arrested. It’s rare for adults to be cited for aiding underage drinking: only 20 people in Wake County last year, and 272 statewide. But charges filed this week against a Raleigh couple allege that an 18-year-old drank alcohol at their home before a fatal crash on June 28, at an event state alcohol agents described as a wedding-related party. The case has brought new attention to this often-misunderstood truth: The law punishes adults for allowing minors to drink, no matter when or where. “I think a lot of parents feel like, ‘If I know where they’re at, and I know they’re here, then they’re safe,’ ” said Kristen Booker, a criminal defense attorney in Raleigh and Wendell, whose practice includes underage drinking. “I hope it changes attitudes.” State Alcohol Law Enforcement agents get several complaints a year about underage drinking at weddings, said Jeff Lasater, special agent in charge for the Triangle area. But those are rare. More often, he said, they respond to high school parties that a school resource officer knows about. In many, parents are home, and they can be charged. “I think a lot of parents think it’s a safer alternative,” said Lasater, who added that some parents will confiscate keys that partygoers are able to find later. “It’s a common misconception.” In June, Jonathon Gregory Taylor died after the BMW he was driving crashed on Hunting Ridge Road after traveling at what investigators estimated at 89 mph. Arrest warrants said he had been drinking at the home of Charles Joseph Matthews, 59, and Kimberly Hunt Matthews, 52, at 904 Vance St. ALE agents said they did not know the number of people at the wedding-related function because they arrived several hours after it ended. Matthews is a Raleigh neurologist, and the Five Points home is large, valued in Wake County tax records at more than $2 million. Each of the Matthews adults was charged with four misdemeanor counts of aiding and abetting underage drinking. Thomas Blake Matthews, 18, was also charged with illegally buying a 375-milliliter bottle of Jack Daniel’s Honey liquor – about 12.7 ounces – at the Wake County ABC store in Cameron Village and giving liquor to three underage people. A clerk at the ABC store, James Gordon Wilson, was also charged in the case. Lasater said underage drinking with adult consent likely happens more often than agents know. “The only time we know about it is if it’s a bad consequence,” he said. Last year, a couple in Long Island, N.Y., got charged after a girl at their home developed alcohol poisoning. She had been drinking with their daughter and other youths after a high school banquet, and the parents called 911 themselves. Conversations about young people and drinking frequently turn to attitudes in Europe, where children often grow up drinking wine with dinner, and where beer can be drunk by people as young as 14. The question often rises, is there a line when a first drink before 21 is a rite of passage rather than a crime? “My answer would be, ‘No,’ ” said Booker. “No matter what.”” [email protected] or 919-829-4818 Read more here: