Open House Party Hosting and Manslaughter

Open house party hosting can be dangerous to both finances and freedom. Most states permit parents to serve their own children alcohol. But it’s illegal to do so with the offspring of others. Even when parents give permission.

A prosecutor in Florida ran for office on a promise to crack down on open house parties. These were parties at which underage adults drink alcohol. Following his election, he charged a woman with manslaughter. A young adult who became intoxicated at a gathering at her house. Shortly after which he died along with his date in his speeding car.

Florida Alcohol Law

Florida courts have held that serving alcohol to underage persons who are later crash is simple negligence. It’s not the negligence required for manslaughter.

According to state law, it is criminal negligence for an intoxicated person to drive a vehicle. If any death results, it is the drunk driver who is criminally negligent. And it is the driver who is guilty of manslaughter.

According to Florida case law, it’s illegal to prevent an intoxicated  person from leaving one’s property. To do so is an illegal arrest.

Prosecutor Tries to Change Law Himself

Open house party hostingYet the prosecutor attempted to create law. But the social host could only be charged with simple negligence.

The prosecutor did this in spite of the one simple fact. The state Supreme Court held that any state law to criminalize simple negligence would be unconstitutional.

Not even the law could criminalize simple negligence. But the prosecutor attempted to do so himself by using a jury. So the prosecutor was attempting to “Nifong1 the defendant. The Florida Times-Union called it an unprecedented case.

Prosecutor Argues

Among other arguments, the prosecutor asserted that intoxication causes speeding. He also insisted that the defendant should have known something else. That an intoxicated young driver would probably or likely have a fatal crash.

The defense’s expert witness testified that intoxication does not cause speeding. In fact, some drunk drivers choose to speed. But others choose to drive slowly. They do that to avoid being caught.

He also testified that it is not at all probable or likely that an underage drunken driver would be involved in a fatal crash. The expert used government statistics to show that the chances are as few 10,000ths or less.

The jury took only about two hours to acquit the defendant of manslaughter charges. Defense attorney Gerald Bettman had long argued that the law did not support the prosecution’s charges of manslaughter. “They knew from the beginning, if they’d done their homework, that the law did not support these charges,” said Bettman. He added “It wasn’t fair.”

Open House Party Hosting

  Web
   Footnote

1. Mike Nifong‘s politically-motivated prosecution of three Duke U. lacrosse players. It became persecution after it became apparent that they were innocent. Nifong was disbarred after a judicial panel found that he manipulated the investigation for personal political advantage. He committed “a clear case of intentional prosecutorial misconduct.” It “involved “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.”

  Legal Case
    • Volusia County v. Santarelli.
  Notes
    • Now you know some of the legal problems that can occur with open house party hosting.
    • This site gives no advice. Please see a lawyer.