DeSoto Parish Police Jury considers closing underage drinking lo - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

DeSoto Parish Police Jury considers closing underage drinking loophole

Community members sounded off at a public hearing about the ordinance Tuesday evening at the Clista A. Calhoun Community Center. Community members sounded off at a public hearing about the ordinance Tuesday evening at the Clista A. Calhoun Community Center.
Martha Urda lost her 17-year-old son Evan in a car wreck 4 years ago after he left an underage party in DeSoto Parish. Martha Urda lost her 17-year-old son Evan in a car wreck 4 years ago after he left an underage party in DeSoto Parish.
DESOTO PARISH, LA (KSLA) - The DeSoto Parish Sheriff's Office is trying to strengthen underage drinking laws, but reaction about the effort is mixed. Community members sounded off at a public hearing about the ordinance Monday evening at the Clista A. Calhoun Community Center in Mansfield.

"I have to try, this is how I get through my grief journey," said Martha Urda, who is a strong advocate for closing a loophole in the state's underage drinking law. 

The issue is close to her heart because she lost her 17-year-old son Evan in a car wreck 4 years ago after he left an underage drinking party in DeSoto Parish. 

"If I can save one family from the grief I'm going through now, I will have done my job," said Urda.

Sheriff Rodney Arbuckle says teenage drinking parties are a problem in the parish. 

"We're breaking up the parties, we're calling the parents to come get the kids," he said. 

But, the current state law won't allow deputies to give out citations to the teens if the party is on private property. 

"The kids know the police can't do anything and that is what is scary," said Urda.

A proposed parish ordinance drafted by the sheriff and district attorney would allow deputies to give out citations to teens even on private property. 

"It would give us some more teeth to help us protect the children," Sheriff Arbuckle said.

Several spoke up at a public hearing on the ordinance. 

"Private to me means private," said Jeri Bruell, who doesn't support the proposed ordinance. "The bill of rights applies to young people as well as adults." 

Gary Burns also spoke out against the idea. 

"The state has already put the law down, I don't feel any need to tweak it make it stronger," he said. 

Several more people spoke in favor and against the proposed law, but ultimately, it's up to the police jury whether the to pass it.

The ordinance wouldn't stop a parent from allowing their underage teenager to drink in their own home. However, parents would not have the right to give other teens, that are not their own, alcohol.

The Ascension Parish government in South Louisiana toughened up underage drinking laws a few years ago.

The ordinance prevents minors from being in possession of alcohol on private property unless they are in the presence of a legal guardian, parent, grandparent or "someone over 30 years of age with whom the underage person has established a significant relationship by blood or adoption."
The ordinance went into effect in May of 2013.

Copyright 2015 KSLA. All rights reserved.

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