A woman from Jackson County, Missouri who was accused of providing alcohol to a teenage party guest who was later involved in a fatal car crash cannot be prosecuted for the death, according to a recent court ruling.
Circuit Judge Peggy Stevens McGraw referred to Missouri law and prior court decisions as justification for her decision to dismiss the charge of involuntary manslaughter. McGraw wrote that, "While other states have concluded that social hosts may be held liable to third parties for injuries inflicted by an intoxicated person, Missouri has not."
Though she avoided the much more severe felony charge, the woman, Sandra Triebel, still faces misdemeanor charges of supplying alcohol to a minor and allowing a minor to consume alcohol on her property.
Prosecutors argued that Triebel provided alcohol at a Halloween party back in 2009 and knew that the teens, including 19-year-old Kenneth Blake, would be drinking at her home. The boy's blood-alcohol level was discovered to be more than twice Missouri's legal limit after he was involved in a terrible crash that resulted in the death of a 16-year-old passenger of another vehicle. Blake is currently serving a six-year prison sentence after he pled guilty to charges of manslaughter and assault.
The decision by prosecutors was a risky one given that Missouri has seen a long line of cases where charges failed against those who supplied alcohol to drunk drivers. The state typically holds only the drunken drivers responsible for fatal accidents. Prosecutors in this case attempted to show that Triebel was criminally negligent and put events into motion that led directly to the deadly crash.
Judge McGraw disagreed with the prosecution, and instead relied on law in Missouri which specifically says that it is the consumption of alcohol, not the supply of it, that is the proximate cause of any injuries inflicted by a drunk driver. McGraw then wrote, "Therefore, this court is reluctant to find that a social host can be held criminally liable for the actions of the underage drinker without a clear declaration from the legislature."
Source: "Mo. judge dismisses manslaughter charge against adult party host in drunken driving case," by The Associated Press, published at TheRepublic.com.