WASHINGTON — Maryland Delegate David Fraser-Hidalgo is a former police officer. He’s been on the scene of fatal crashes, and says the June deaths of two teenagers in an alcohol-related crash “brought it all back.”
The crash that killed Wootton High graduates Calvin Li and Alex Murk — both 18 years old — happened after the teens had been at a party where alcohol was provided. A parent was at the home at the time.
That parent, Kenneth Saltzman of North Potomac, pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to minors. He paid the maximum penalty: a fine of $5,000, which is $2,500 for each count.
The driver, Samuel Ellis, 19, of Gaithersburg, faces five charges, including vehicular manslaughter.
Fraser-Hidalgo wants to boost the penalty parents would pay if they host parties where underage drinking is allowed. His bill would double the fine and include possible jail time, up to one year for the first offense and two years for the second offense.
He says he’s aware that some parents believe that they can protect their kids by providing a “safe place” for them to drink. Fraser-Hidalgo says things can get out of control quickly at underage parties, “with a few kids turning into a few dozen, turning into hundreds.”
He says it’s tough enough for trained officers to handle calls to those kinds of parties, and says parents can find themselves overwhelmed. But the bottom line, says Fraser-Hidalgo, is this: “You know, we’re talking about kids who are under the age of 21 — and it’s against the law for them to drink.”
The bill would go before Maryland’s House Judiciary Committee, led by Chairman Delegate Joseph Vallario, a criminal defense attorney.
“That has historically been a very big challenge — to get some of these alcohol-related bills out the judiciary committee. But I feel fairly confident,” says Fraser-Hidalgo.
Part of that confidence comes from the fact that his co-sponsor in the House is Delegate Kathleen Dumais, vice chairwoman of Vallario’s committee.