McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

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March 10, 2014

ABLE tackles under-age drinking

McALESTER — Officials say adults supplying minors with alcohol is a crime and it was also the target of a press-conference given by the McAlester district of the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission recently.

Last year’s alcohol related death of a McAlester youth and an increase in incidences of the adults who supply alcohol to under-age children were the focus of the meeting, according to State of Oklahoma ABLE Commission Special Agent-In-Charge Joe D. Daniels.

The meeting was held at the ABLE office on Washington Street.

Officials say William Hatridge, 19, of McAlester was found unresponsive after drinking at an out-door party near Blocker.

He died of “the acute toxic effects of ethyl alcohol” with a blood alcohol level of .35 percent, according of cheif medical examiners office in Tulsa.

William Hatridges sister Meredith Hatridge attended the conference.

She said she grieves the loss of her younger brother every day but she has plans to help stop underage drinking by working with legislators on a bill to track who purchases alcohol for minors.

During the meeting Agent Daniels said with upcoming events such as spring break, graduation and prom adults may be tempted to give supply alcohol in for under age children but he said that’s against the law.

 “For the last 23 years that I’ve been with ABLE around this time we have some well-meaning adults who provide locations for minors to consume alcohol with the intentions of protecting them,” Daniels said.

“They have good intentions to keep kids off the road and give them a safe place to consume — but this isn’t safe and isn’t legal.”

Also during the conference, Stephanie Peters regional prevention coordinator director for Neighbors Building Neighborhoods, said her organization is planning a Reality Party to help educate people on the dangers of under age drinking.

According to ABLE, underage drinking cost the State of Oklahoma some $831 million dollars in 2010.  Tragic health, social and economic problems result from the use of alcohol by youth.

Daniels said the majority of youth who drink say they do so at their homes or a friends home.

He said ABLE responds to these parties differently than other law enforcement agencies.

“We will write a citation and we will also contact everyone’s parents to come pick them up. We are going to hold people responsible.”

Daniels also explained Oklahoma’s social host law — also known as Cody’s Law.

The law was named after Cody Greenhaw, Daniels explained. “Cody went to a party at age 16 and he was allowed to consume alcohol. The host of the party did not provide the alcohol, but did turn a blind eye to toward the kids who were consuming it,” Daniels said.

He said the young man died at the party of alcohol and drug overdose. Daniels said Cody’s parents discovered there was no law making it illegal for someone to allow this to occur in their home.

 The Greenhaws went on to start a campaign and in 2006, the first version of Cody’s Law was passed,” Daniels said.

Changes were made to the law and it now includes low-point beer and misdemeanor charges for first time occurrences, he said.

Daniels said the Oklahoma’ social host law states that even providing a place where minors are able to use alcohol, beer or drugs, is a crime.

The first time it’s a misdemeanor and the third conviction is a felony, he said.

“If there is serious injury or death, the charge will automatically be a felony charge even if it is a first offense,” Daniels said.

Meanwhile Meredith Hatridge said she’s hoping people will learn something from the death of her brother.

“I don’t want to say people shouldn’t drink, but they need to be responsible and not supply alcohol to young people,” Meredith Hatridge said.

“I never realized what could happen, until it happened to me.”

To report underage drinking parties anonymously, contact the Oklahoma ABLE Commission at www.able.ok.gov or call 866-894-3517.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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