The Supreme Judicial Court today overturned a Hudson man's conviction for plying his underage daughter with spiked lemonade, but said he was guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for serving the same booze to her even more underage friend, because state law gives parents the right to serve liquor to their children.
The state's highest court also ordered a new trial for John Parent on a charge of pawing his daughter's friend as all three lay together on a sofa bed - saying his trial judge erred in not letting his lawyer press a case that testimony by a police detective was not valid because he was the second person the girl allegedly told about getting felt up and that he should have been allowed to pursue alleged inconsistencies in her story.
According to the court, the 14-year-old friend showed up with a water bottle full of vodka stolen from her parents' liquor cabinet. Parent's daughter, then 15, asked him for some "hard lemonade," and he gave each girl a bottle. And then took them to a local liquor store to buy more, which he then let them take down to the basement, where they split a six pack of the stuff.
Parent will get a new trial on allegations that he joined them down there and did stuff a grown man isn't supposed to do to the 14-year-old friend of his daughter - although he allegedly stopped as soon as she objected.
The jury in the case convicted Parent of contributing to the delinquency of a minor by letting the two girls drink alcohol and by then procuring more for them.
The court noted that state law sets three scenarios for finding an adult guilty of procuring liquor for a minor or serving it to a minor, but only specifically exempts parents from two of them. That, the court said, is illogical and cannot stand:
The Legislature contemplated the possibility that a parent may procure alcohol for his minor child at a licensed establishment or may furnish alcohol to such a minor child at home, and it specifically exempted a parent from criminal liability for doing so under § 34. [FN14] It apparently did not contemplate the possibility that a parent's furnishing of alcohol to his child in his own home might be characterized as a "delivery" of alcohol to that child, and therefore did not specifically provide for a similar exemption. We do not interpret the absence of such an exemption to mean that a parent violates § 34 by giving an alcoholic beverage to his own minor child, regardless whether he purchased the beverage at a store or acquired it in some other manner, even where that act is characterized as a "delivery" of alcohol rather than the "furnishing" of alcohol. The legislative purpose of the exemptions was plainly to allow parents the freedom to decide whether they wish to provide alcohol to their own children without fear of criminal liability, especially where the prohibition extends not only to young children but to all persons under twenty-one years of age. Therefore, we conclude that a parent does not violate § 34 by giving his own child alcohol in his own home, regardless whether that act is characterized as furnishing or delivering. Any contrary interpretation would make the exemption meaningless, because parents would never be able lawfully to "furnish" alcohol to their child within their home without being criminally liable for "delivering" alcohol to that same child.