Local News

Adults who allow underage drinking can be charged in NC

Posted July 24, 2015 6:58 p.m. EDT
Updated July 30, 2015 6:12 p.m. EDT

— 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.