Oak Bluffs police broke up an underage drinking party Friday and arrested the alleged host for supplying alcohol to minors. Police suspect the party in a private home was one in a series organized for Island teenagers.
Acting on a series of complaints, police initiated an investigation. On Friday evening, they were ready to act.
Police went to 27 Grovedale Road just before midnight. Inside the modest house were 15 teenagers, two adults and a large quantity of beer and liquor, according to Oak Bluffs Police Lieutenant Tim Williamson.
Sgt. Michael Marchand, officers James Morse and Jeffrey Trudel administered portable breathalyzer tests to all of the teens. Test results showed that all the youngsters had been drinking to varying degrees of intoxication. Police called the parents and asked that they come pick up their children at the Grovedale Road house.
Police arrested Matthew P. Lyons, 24, on a charge of selling/delivering liquor to a person under 21. Mr. Lyons was arraigned Monday in Edgartown District Court and released after he posted bail in the amount of $100.
Stiff penalties apply to teens who drink and drive
Oak Bluffs police Sgt. Michael Marchand said this week that all of the teenagers tested for alcohol Friday night exceeded the legal blood alcohol limit. He noted that many teenage drivers do not stop to think about the legal consequences.
Under the so-called Melanie's Law, named for a young girl killed by a drunk driver, and the recently enacted Junior Operators Law, underage drivers face loss of license for an extended period.
Any driver who registers a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher may be arrested for operating under the influence (OUI.) A driver younger than 21, which is the legal age for drinking in Massachusetts, faces administrative penalties if he or she tests at .02 or higher.
In some cases, one drink is enough to put a person over the .02 blood alcohol limit. The penalty for failing the breathalyzer test is an automatic license suspension for 30 days. A conviction for a first offense carries a host of penalties that include fines, license suspension, and considerable legal costs.
For drivers under 18, a conviction for a first offense means a loss of license for one year. The penalty can be reduced to 180 days based on participation in an alcohol education program.
A driver 18 to 21 with no prior convictions loses his or her license for three years - plus 180 days, which can be waived for participation in an alcohol education program.
A driver under 21 with no prior convictions who refuses a breathalyzer test receives an automatic three-year license suspension and is required to complete an alcohol education course.
The second adult found in the house had only recently arrived before police and was not involved, said Lieutenant Williamson.
According to police, Mr. Lyons rents the house, under what appears to be an informal lease arrangement.
Sergeant Marchand said police acted after looking into complaints that people renting the house were hosting drinking parties for high school age kids. When police arrived at the address, one of the officers looked through a window and saw at least 10 very young people consuming alcohol, officer Marchand said.
Police entered the house and found approximately 15 underage young people hiding throughout the house. The party drew high school students from Oak Bluffs to Aquinnah, Sgt. Marchand said.
Police found six 30-packs of beer, large bottles of alcohol and evidence of drinking games. "The house was completely littered with empty beer cans," said Sergeant Marchand.
"I am glad," the officer said, "that we did intervene, because there were cars parked out front, and certainly at the hour of the night when we were there, which was scratching midnight, most kids have to be home about one in the morning, and all of them had been drinking. They were going to get in a car and drive home. So I think our timing was perfect."
The parents did not mind being called out in the early hours of Saturday morning, he said. "They all seemed very appreciative when I met them outdoors," said Sergeant Marchand.
The decision not to charge the high school age partygoers had much to do with their ages, their respectful demeanor that evening, and a willingness to use the least punitive measures when dealing with young people for the first time, said Lieutenant Williamson. He said the police officers did a good job and took appropriate measures that reflected the department's community based outlook.
"Essentially, this is where the guys switch hats from a police officer to a community caretaker," said Lieutenant Williamson. "Obviously, they wanted to teach the kids a lesson, let their parents know what they were up to, and possibly they could have saved some kid's life, if he had continued to drink and left the party."