Parents who knowingly host underage drinking parties in Maryland could face the possibility of being sent to jail for up to a year if an underage drinker leaves their home and is injured or killed in a car crash.
However, the version of “Alex and Calvin’s Law” that passed the General Assembly late Monday night and is now awaiting Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature was weaker than the bill originally proposed by Montgomery County Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo.
Fraser-Hidalgo said Tuesday the state Senate’s version of his bill was approved, which stipulates an adult over 21 or parent can be charged only if they “knowingly” allow an underage individual to leave their home and drive after drinking. It also reduced the proposed fine from $5,000 and kept it at the $2,500 fine that’s current law for furnishing alcohol to someone underage.
The legislation was named after Alex Murk and Calvin Li, two 18-year-olds who were killed in a North Potomac collision last summer after the driver, Samuel Ellis, also 18 at the time, had been drinking at an underage drinking party at the home of Kenneth Saltzman. Saltzman, 49, was home during the party and later pleaded guilty to two criminal citations for allowing underaged drinking at his home and was fined a total of $5,000, according to Maryland electronic court records, but faced no possibility of jail time. Ellis pleaded guilty Friday to two counts of vehicular manslaughter and faces up to 10 years in jail for each count at sentencing in June.
The crash stunned the community of Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville— Murk, Li and Ellis had recently graduated from the school—and resulted in calls from the Li and Murk families to toughen penalties for parents who host underage drinking parties.
Fraser-Hidalgo said parts of his bill were changed by state senators who were concerned about 21- or 22-year-old college students facing jail time for hosting a college drinking party. The legislation would also prevent parents from facing jail time if their children secretly host a party at their home without their knowledge—such as if parents are asleep when the underage drinking begins.
But the delegate said adding the possibility of jail time was the most important part of his legislation and he’s pleased it was included.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” Fraser-Hidalgo said. “It’s not everything we wanted, but for the first time in Maryland history, I believe, we actually have criminal ramifications for hosting underage drinking parties.”
He said the bill was passed by the General Assembly around 8:40 p.m. Monday night and there was no time for him to request any changes be made. The legislative body adjourned for the year around midnight.
“It was either take it or lose it, so we took it,” he said. “I may come back next year and tweak it a little.”
He added that he was able to speak with the Murk and Li families after the bill was passed. He said while they weren’t happy with the amendments that weakened the bill, they were pleased that the possibility of jail time was included in the version that was passed.