Teen's death is impetus for drinking bill Backers see measure as cutting access to alcohol

January 07, 1996|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,SUN STAFF

With the alcohol death of 15-year-old Tiffany Fouts and related murder charges against four other teens as an impetus, a Harford County legislator plans to press this year for a bill making adults responsible for underage drinking that occurs on their property.

"Parents need to wake up to the fact that they are responsible for what goes on in their house, they need to oversee their children's parties and need to make sure kids are obeying the law while they are in their house," said Del. Nancy Jacobs, an Edgewood Republican.

The bill -- similar to a measure that was passed last year by the House but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee -- again will be introduced by Del. Pauline H. Menes, a Prince George's Democrat, with Mrs. Jacobs among the co-sponsors.

The bill has the support from the Maryland Underage Drinking Prevention Coalition and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which say it could sharply curtail teen access to alcohol. Both groups plan to lobby for passage after the General Assembly session opens Wednesday.

"This closes one of the biggest loopholes because, right now, adults are only responsible if it can be proven they supplied the alcohol," said Bonnie Holmes, executive director of the coalition.

The bill -- which does not specify a penalty -- would make adults responsible when they "knowingly or willfully" allow underage drinking. It reinforces "zero tolerance for underage drinking anytime, anyplace -- even in a parent's home," Ms. Holmes said.

Tiffany Artina Fouts' body was found Nov. 12 in the woods near an Aberdeen townhouse where, police say, she spent her last hours at a party drinking with teens.

Four teens, ages 14 to 19, have been charged with murder -- the youngest as a juvenile, the others as adults. One teen also was charged with raping the girl before she was carried out unconscious and left in a narrow strip of woods.

Residents of the townhouse included the accused 14-year-old and his mother, who said she was on the second floor of the house while the party was being held in the basement, authorities said.

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