DA Hoovler Discusses Dangers of Drugs and Alcohol Heading Into Summer Season

June 4, 2024

District Attorney Hoovler Discusses Dangers of Drugs and Alcohol Heading Into Summer Season

On Thursday, May 30th, 2024 Orange County District Attorney David M. Hoovler reminded members of the public of the important safety choices that need to be made as we head into the summer months.  In recent letters sent to Superintendents of Orange County school districts, District Attorney Hoovler reminded stakeholders that far too often the joyous events we look forward to this time of year, including proms, formals, graduations and graduation parties end in tragedy because of the use and abuse of illegal substances and alcohol.  The public, together with law enforcement, our educational partners and parents must remain vigilant in protecting our students from the dangers of drugs and alcohol.  In particular, the decriminalization of marijuana has failed to provide sufficient means to keep the drug out of the hands of our children.  We have seen a marked increase in calls for medical attention at local school districts involving THC, CBD Oils, “K2” and other substances being ingested by the use of electronic-cigarettes or “E- cigarettes”. For every parent and educator the health and safety of children and teenagers is of paramount importance.  It is imperative that young people be warned about dangerous substances by adults that they trust, and that responsible adults be vigilant in ensuring that those in their care are safe.

As a reminder, New York State Penal Law Section 260.20 makes it a crime for anyone 18 years of age or older to provide alcohol to children under the age of 21. In addition, Penal Law Article 222 establishes various criminal penalties for people age 21 and over who provide marijuana to those under age 21, and the New York State Cannabis Law makes it unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 to possess marihuana.  Importantly, Orange County’s Social Host Law imposes criminal penalties on anyone 18 years of age or older who knowingly allows underage drinking on premises under their control, or who fails to take steps to stop underage drinking once it is discovered on those premises.  Incidentally, the impetus for the Social Host Law was a party where underaged drinking was allowed, resulting in a party goer’s being stabbed to death.  The Social Host Law’s penalties apply to parties that are held on private property and on public property that is under the host’s control, such as a municipal park or firehouse where a party is held. The Social Host Law also applies to anyone 18 years old or older, so an 18-year-old hosting underage drinking at his or her own graduation party could be charged under the law.  The Penal Law sections and the Social Host Law are all meant to protect children from alcohol and drug consumption and its effects, and we take those laws very seriously.

Anyone hosting a party must refrain from serving alcohol to minors and must ensure that minors are not drinking alcohol on the premises, whether the host served it to them or not. Thoseresponsibilities require parents and other hosts to provide adequate supervision for minors at parties, to ensure that underaged drinking is not occurring.  Parents should also discuss with hosts at other locations whether supervision is adequate at those locations.  And, above all, no one 21 years of age or older should be providing marihuana to anyone under age 21.

Importantly, we should all remind our children to immediately seek medical attention for anyone experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency resulting from alcohol or drug consumption. New York’s “Good Samaritan” Law prevents prosecution of drug and alcohol possession offenses committed by people whose possession of those substances is discovered as a result of their reporting such a medical emergency.  Students who have saved someone’s life by seeking medical attention should therefore not be afraid of being arrested for their own possession of illegal substances.

In the past few years, the District Attorney’s Office has sponsored two public-awareness campaigns directed at childhood substance use.  First, Connect 2 Disconnect is designed to give parents and students some tools that might help them “connect” with their children and friends, in an effort to “disconnect” them from opiates.  Second, the You Permit It, You Promote It campaign is directed at parents, to impress on them the dangers of allowing children to drink alcohol. Materials for both of those campaigns are available on request.

“We must work together as a community to ensure that our children are able to enjoy the summer months safely with celebrations of graduations and other family events,” said District Attorney Hoovler. “Drugs and alcohol should never be part of childhood celebrations and there are legal consequences for those who would allow our kids access to these substances. Safety is a conscious choice that is easy to make and will help to keep you and your family secure to enjoy the time together.  Orange County has so much to offer us all and I encourage everyone to safely use our waterways and public lands and parks.”