New law makes adults liable for underage drinkers
By Lynda Arakawa
Advertiser Capitol Bureau
A bill aimed at sending a "wake-up call" to adults who provide underage individuals alcohol and allow them to drink became law yesterday.
Someone injured by an intoxicated person under 21 would be able to collect compensation from the adult who provided or purchased alcohol for the underage person, under a bill signed into law by Gov. Linda Lingle. The new law also makes adults responsible if they knew underage people were drinking on their property or premises they were in control of and could have prevented it.
It also makes it a misdemeanor for an adult to give alcohol to people under 21.
The bill was one of a handful Lingle signed during a ceremony near the Mothers Against Drunk Driving victims' memorial at the Kaka'ako Waterfront Park. Law enforcement officials and others said the new laws will help deter actions that can lead to drunk driving, as well as give law enforcement more tools to combat drunk driving and the illegal sale of drugs.
Big Island resident Nyla Ortiz talked about how her 18-year-old stepson, Aaron Abadilla, died in a car crash in 1998 after leaving a party where he and his friends were given alcohol. She said the young driver tried to drive home but lost control of the vehicle, which flipped over, ejecting the boys.
"Hawai'i's youth have easy access to alcohol and far too many adults find it acceptable," Ortiz said. "Underage drinking needs to be prevented so that young lives can have a future."
Carol McNamee, vice president of public policy for MADD National, said the bills were being signed just before the Memorial Day weekend, one of the deadliest for alcohol-related highway crashes, and in the midst of the graduation party season.
She said national studies show the most common places youth get alcohol are from home or from adults over the age of 21.
Bars, restaurants and retailers that sell liquor can be held liable for injuries caused by their drunken customers.
Other bills Lingle signed yesterday:
- Make it a class C felony to be convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs three times in 10 years.
- Allow police officers to conduct breath, blood or urine tests on persons involved in motor-vehicle accidents.
- Make dealing drugs in public parks a class C felony.
Reach Lynda Arakawa at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 525-8070.