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Adults who allow underage drinking can be charged in NC

Posted July 24, 2015
Updated July 30, 2015

— Mixing adults, minors and alcohol at private parties is a dangerous cocktail in North Carolina.

Although it is legal in some states for minors to drink alcohol at private parties with permission from their parents, North Carolina is not one of those states.

Officials with the state Division of Alcohol Law Enforcement said any adult who allows a minor to consume alcohol or reasonably should have known that underage drinking was occurring in their home can be criminally charged for misdemeanor aiding and abetting.

Dr. Charles Joseph Matthews and his wife, Kimberly Hunt Matthews, go on trial next week on those charges. They're accused of providing alcohol to teens at a wedding reception last year, and one of those underage drinkers, 18-year-old Jonathan Taylor, later died in a crash.

The Matthewses unsuccessfully tried to get the charges dismissed, arguing that prosecutors were wrongly targeting them instead of the bartenders who served drinks without checking IDs or the ABC store employee who sold their underage son alcohol that he brought to the reception.

Anthony D'Agostino, director of the Raleigh Bartending School, said party hosts need to know who is serving drinks at an event.

"The best thing you can do is to hire someone that is certified. First, because they can have formal training on what to look for when someone has had a lot to drink and you should cut them off, also who to serve and not to serve," D'Agostino said.

North Carolina has about 320,000 underage drinkers each year, according to a state-funded study conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation.

Some parents contend that they're doing the right thing by providing a safe environment for their teens to drink.

Meg Hill, a family counselor with Raleigh Parent and Child, said she hears that argument often.

"Kids are going to drink. We can't do anything about that," Hill said clients tell her. "(At) the other end of the spectrum ... parents will say, 'No drinking at all – ever.'"

Teaching children to drink responsibly means the parents must drink responsibly and need to have frank conversations with their children about drinking, she said.

"Have the conversation. Keep an open conversation with your children," she said.


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  • William Denton Jul 25, 2015
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    So, are the bartenders and the ABC store employee being charged at all or do they get a free pass?

  • Jim Murphy Jul 25, 2015
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    "...l or reasonably should have known that underage drinking was occurring in their home..."

    Let me put you on notice right now. If you have underage kids partying in your home, the chance that they are going to find some way to drink alcohol approaches 100%. In a party environment, far better to take up all the car keys and let them have at it. Closing your eyes to what is actually happening is what leads to tragedy. Unfortunately, our elected legislators think they know better.
    And charging the parents? Who hired professional bartenders and whose own son bootlegged in the booze? That seems vindictive to me, but then, anytime alcohol is involved in any way, vindictiveness raises its ugly head.

  • Paul Jones Jul 25, 2015
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    Drinking age used to be 18. In some countries, it's even younger. Alcohol isn't the significant problem. Drinking and driving is. The laws were changed just for that reason.

    I don't believe changing the drinking age helped. When I was in high school, most students drank. I can't believe that's charged. But, I do think the "friends don't let friends drive drunk" campaign works. There is an increased consciousness about the dangers of mixing the two.

  • Patrick Murphy Jul 24, 2015
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    The age for alcohol, military service, and being prosecuted as an adult should be the same age.

  • Robert Fotch Jr Jul 24, 2015
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    So, your old enough to die for your country, but not old enough to have a drink. Anybody with at least any common sense at all knows that's ridiculous! And as far as being charged with aiding and abetting, how about "we the people" charge the "officials" with aiding and abetting illegal immigration!

  • Jim Frei Jul 24, 2015
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    Drinking age should be 18 years old.