Social host law adopted, after emotional appeals on both sides


KINGSTON – It was one of the more wrenching debates in recent memory in the Ulster County Legislative chambers.  Families who have lost members in alcohol-related accidents were sharply divided on whether the proposed “Social Host” law, holding parents accountable for drinking parties involving under-age participants in their home, would live up to its intent.

Marie Shultis, who lost a brother many years ago in a drunk-driving crash, and has spearheaded a student activist group, again called for rewriting the law to include an ‘education component’.

Howard Dean-Lipson, whose son Andrew, 19, died in a crash involving several young people, last May, made an emotional plea to adopt the law as is, mandating penalties for both the drinker and the parent.

Donald Williams is the recently retired District Attorney, who is serving as a special prosecutor in the case against the teen driver, Zephyr Dresser-Peck, 19, who faces felony charges as a result of the accident that killed Dean-Lipson.  Williams urged legislators to pass the law as is.

Above: Shultis, right,
with Onteora students
including Rose Hallinan
(class president), center




Dresser-Peck, who stood with Shultis in front of the legislature two weeks ago, sat quietly last night, not joining other students who asked the legislature to reconsider the law.

Shultis said Dresser-Peck is not being used as a “role model”, but as an example of how very bad decisions can lead to very tragic consequences.

“If the teens that caused my brother’s accident were forced to educate, as a sentence, we may not have the highest rate of underage drinking that Ulster County has now.”

After sending the measure back to committee twice over the past four months, this time legislators were ready to act.

Susan Zimet argued there is but one purpose of the law.

“To set the agenda and let parents know it’s not appropriate to allow kids to drink in your house.  It’s not appropriate to turn your back and pretend you don’t see it.  It’s not right.

A motion to refer the law back to committee, again, failed.  Frank Dart, who chairs the Criminal Justice and Safety Committee, urged passage, saying they can add an appropriate ‘education components’ later.

The law passed on a 29-2 vote, with ‘no’ votes from Jeanette Provenzano and Robert Aiello.

Shultis, disappointed, said she would continue with her advocacy outreach.

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