Effort targets adults who buy liquor for minors

March 26, 2006|By LAURA MCCANDLISH | LAURA MCCANDLISH,SUN REPORTER

Carroll County Deputy State's Attorney David P. Daggett apparently means it when he says, "If we find out that somebody over the age of 18 is buying alcohol for somebody under 18, we charge them."

The legal drinking age is 21. Still, about a dozen adults in the county were charged last year with purchasing alcohol for minors, Daggett said. Some of the adults were younger than 21 and used fake identification.

The county's new Task Force on Underage Alcohol Abuse will address that issue and try to figure out ways to improve patrols during prom and graduation weekends.

The formation of the task force follows several alcohol-related deaths of Carroll County teenagers in the past year. The Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention has also launched a campaign to hold town hall forums across the state to address underage drinking.

This month, Joel C. Nelson, 20, died after a night of partying at an apartment in Hampstead. When a toxicology report revealed that his blood-alcohol content was .37 percent, authorities announced that Nelson died from acute alcohol poisoning.

The legal limit is .08 percent.

Just two weeks ago, a Gamber man, Cory Lee Slemaker, 22, was charged with purchasing alcohol for a group of juveniles in September 2005. The teenagers were involved in a car crash in Finksburg a few hours later that left two of them dead at the scene.

In February, a New Windsor woman, Karen Diane Haltiner, 34, was sentenced to six months in jail for providing alcohol to minors involved in an accident in March 2005 that killed a 15-year-old Westminster girl.

The county's task force also plans to start an anonymous tip line that the community can use to notify police about underage drinking parties and adults buying alcohol for minors, Daggett said.

Local police said they might also use young cadets to buy alcohol with fake identification to determine which stores sell to minors.

"It's an ever-increasing problem, facilitated and assisted by adults and parents," Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes said. "Kids are dying when minors who consumed alcohol are driving, endangering every innocent person on the highway."

Of 488 vehicles checked, fours cars were pulled over and two individuals were arrested for driving under the influence when the Westminster barracks of the state police ran a sobriety checkpoint March 17, police said.

The county's task force, which includes prosecutors and state and local police, met for the first time Monday and will probably meet again in two weeks, Daggett said.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

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