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July 4, 2007

A parental example of unequal justice (and the virtue of alternative)

The Washington Post has this front-page article today about sentencing inequalities and the limits of criminal law, but it is not about the special treatment Scooter Libby received.  Instead, as excerpted below, it is about different state responses and punishments for parents hosting teen parties and serving alcohol:

[A] stark contrast in punishments is just one inconsistency in a patchwork of conflicting legal practices and public attitudes about underage drinking parties.  Even at a time of strong concern about youth drinking and drunken driving, police and prosecutors say parents in the Washington region are rarely held responsible — criminally or civilly — for allowing teenagers to gather at their homes and consume alcohol. That's in large part because it's difficult to prove that the adults provided alcohol or condoned its use.

The issue is becoming more urgent, police say, as more parents, fearing their teenagers will drink anyway, allow alcohol at home to keep the youths off the roads and out of trouble....

Legal experts on underage drinking say civil penalties are more effective than criminal penalties. Civil ordinances, which are handled administratively, allow police to respond to complaints, break up the ever-larger drinking parties and hit parents quickly in their pocketbooks. "We don't believe that locking up mom and dad is the answer," said Michelle Blackstone of the Underage Drinking Enforcement Training Center, based in Calverton. "Research suggests that going after the purse strings is much more effective."

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July 4, 2007 at 08:28 AM | Permalink


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Speaking as a non-lawyer who teaches history and political science, I can't help but note the biggest flaw in the article is that it presumes that the 50 states and the District of Columbia should have identical laws with identical penalties. But under our federal system, different jurisdictions can and do make different policy decisions about criminal law. Not only am I not surprised by the differences between the laws of Maryland, Virginia, and DC are different, I am actually surprised that anyone IS surprised by the fact that there are differences.

Posted by: Rhymes With Right | Jul 4, 2007 3:43:36 PM

Unequal justice is very common in criminal justice system. sometimes being poor is the reason of unequal justice, and those people cannot achieve the justice they want.


Posted by: California drug rehab center | Aug 18, 2009 9:30:48 PM

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